Thursday, August 27, 2009

Insurance news: Co-ops and discount health plans...

Some interesting talk this morning about cooperatives as an answer in the health-care overhaul debate:

Washington Post: Cooperatives' Record Weighed in Health-Care Debate: Some herald them as a cure for health care, others question their power and costs.

Huffington Post: Co-ops the equivalent of a `medical unicorn': "One of the leading progressive voices in the House of Representatives declared on Thursday that a co-operative approach for health insurance coverage was such a vague entity -- and political non-starter -- it might as well be a `medical unicorn.'"

In California, state officials have ordered two unlicensed discount health card companies -- Prudent Choice and International Association of Benefits, to stop operating in that state. A third company,, has been ordered to get licensed there.

Here in Washington, a new law requires discount health plans -- which are NOT insurance -- to be licensed here and to file annual financial statements. The companies' marketing materials are required by law to state that these are discount plans and not health insurance, and companies must refund all charges if a customer cancels within 30 days.

In addition, the plans must offer an updated list of cooperating providers, list discounted services, and not restrict access to their providers. Violations are subject to penalties ranging from $100 to $10,000. For more information on this law, click here.