News: 2009 Press Release
For Release: March 26, 2009
Media Calls Only: 916-492-3566
Commissioner Poizner Touts Health Insurance Options, Highlights Bipartisan Bill to Help Laid Off Californians During Recession in Fresno
With the Fresno's unemployment rate at more than double the national rate and the state's unemployment rate topping 10 percent, Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner today highlighted the Foundation for Health Coverage Education (FHCE) Coverageforall.org Web site, a source of information for those who may have lost their health insurance due to the tough economic times.
The event is the fifth in a series of events Commissioner Poizner is holding to inform the public of their health care options during the recession.
"There are so many people without health insurance in the Fresno region. The Central Valley's unemployment rate is 60 percent higher than the state's unemployment rate of 10.5 percent," said Commissioner Poizner. "More than 600,000 people have lost their jobs in the last 12 months, but there are many resources out there to help educate laid off workers of their options. One of those resources is Foundation for Health Coverage Education's coverageforall.org, where people can go to find out what's available for them given their particular situation."
FHCE operates a U.S. Uninsured Help Line at 800-234-1317 as a resource in addition to the Web site. The Web site and hotline are designed to provide access to hundreds of state and federal programs. The nonprofit organization currently provides access to 175 public healthcare program applications online, allowing Americans seeking government-sponsored health coverage to apply for the programs that best meet their needs.
"A lot of people don't know these programs exist. What we are doing is making it easier for people in need to access all of their local and statewide options," said Phil Lebherz, founder of the nonprofit organization.
FHCE is a non-profit 501 (c) 3 organization with a mission to help simplify public and private health insurance eligibility information. In addition to its U.S. Uninsured Help Line (800) 234-1317 and website www.coverageforall.org, FHCE offers free consumer guides such as the Health Care Options Matrix available for all 50 states.
Commissioner Poizner also discussed his sponsorship of AB 23, bipartisan legislation that will allow all recently laid off employees of small California businesses to apply for federal dollars that will help them continue their health insurance. The legislation is co-authored by Assemblymembers Dave Jones (D-Sacramento) and Nathan Fletcher (R-San Diego), respectively the chair and vice-chair of the Assembly Health Committee.
"The COBRA program is one of the easiest ways for people to continue their health coverage with the same doctors and same care after they are laid off, but often its cost keeps it out people's reach," said Commissioner Poizner. "I'm proud to see all parties come together to allow all those who were laid off from small businesses to also participate in the federal subsidy and allow so many unemployed Californians to keep their health care coverage despite the nation's recession."
Federal COBRA covers employees of firms that employ 20 or more employees. California has a separate program, known as Cal-COBRA, which extends the same benefits to employees of small businesses that employ between 2 and 19 people. The federal legislation permits states to allow these employees to qualify for the 65 percent subsidy, but only if the state passes specific legislation.
The bill is currently in the legislature and must be signed by the Governor before it goes into effect.
The insurance commissioner oversees PPOs and the individual health care market, but unlike auto and homeowners insurance, does not approve health insurance rates.
Commissioner Poizner has worked hard to protect consumers in the health care market. Since taking office, he has restored health insurance coverage to nearly 4,000 consumers whose policies had been illegally rescinded, in addition to establishing significant reforms to prevent future illegal rescissions for 85 percent of policyholders in the individual health insurance marketplace.
- In January 2009, Anthem Blue Cross agreed to restore health coverage for nearly 2,300 consumers whose insurance coverage was rescinded. Anthem Blue Cross also agreed to make a number of changes to prevent future rescissions and pay a $1 million fine.
- In December 2008, Blue Shield agreed to restore health coverage for almost 700 consumers whose insurance coverage had been rescinded. Future use of third party review was also secured in addition to significant changes in the underwriting process.
- In September 2008, Health Net agreed to restore health coverage for nearly 1,000 consumers whose insurance coverage had been rescinded.
- In January 2008, Commissioner Poizner announced an action against PacifiCare Life and Health Insurance Company, a wholly owned subsidiary of United Health Group, in response to tens of thousands of alleged claims handling violations.
Please visit the Department of Insurance Web site at www.insurance.ca.gov. Non media inquiries should be directed to the Consumer Hotline at 800.927.HELP. Callers from out of state, please dial 213.897.8921. Telecommunications Devices for the Deaf (TDD), please dial 800.482.4833.
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