People like to research prices before they make a big purchase - and that goes for everything from cars to surgery. At least, that’s what Democratic Assemblymember Roger Hernandez says. He says his bill would create a website that lists costs of medical procedures, so that consumers can find the best deal.
“It’s important for consumers to be equipped with the information that will give them the power to question billing practices, to question a procedure that they feel they’re being overcharged for, and thus maybe the insurance company is being overcharged for,” Hernandez says.
The website would display the amount charged for a healthcare service, and how much was actually paid. Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones supports the idea of an online database.
“When you think about it, for every other good or service that we purchase, you can see a price list, but not medical services. And the prices vary all over the place. Even from the same medical provider,” Jones says.
Jones says there may be legal impediments to making more health pricing information publically available.
Blue Shield of California is a major insurer through Covered California. But in Northern California, the insurer is not selling individual policies in many regions where it was just last year.
Anthem Blue Cross, the largest insurer in Covered California's Northern California region, ended an out-of-state benefit for individual planholders this year. Blue Shield of California plans in the region also restrict care to within state lines.
The open enrollment period for Covered California began less than a month ago. But the pace of applications and enrollments has already exceeded last year.
California offers several services for both documented and undocumented immigrants. But fears about deportation deter many people from taking advantage of the benefits offered to them.
Covered California says this year’s early health insurance enrollment is looking more promising than last year’s.