SACRAMENTO — The state’s consumer website for health insurance coverage won’t post quality ratings alongside the monthly price for plans, drawing complaints from some consumer groups and health insurers.
State officials decided to drop the rankings as part of Covered California, the new health exchange under the federal health care law, because they say the ratings are outdated and don’t reflect many of the new offerings.
The latest state rankings examine performance from plans in 2011, and the new health plans will be offered for the first time after the state’s new health exchange opens Oct. 1, so provider networks and coverage may vary.
As many as 5 million Californians are expected to shop for health insurance next year.
Some higher-rated insurers such as Kaiser Permanente say this vital information should be included on the state’s health exchange.
Health policy experts worry that waiting to develop ratings could take up to two years, leaving consumers in the dark. They argue the delay rewards low-performing insurers.
“We think it’s important for consumers to have information on quality in year one, even if it’s not everything we want,” Beth Capell, a lobbyist for the consumer group Health Access, told The Los Angeles Times.
“If for five bucks more a month I can get a 4-star plan instead of a 2-star plan, I should have that information,” Capell said.
Covered California Executive Director Peter Lee agreed that quality ratings are important, but highlighting current data could be misleading because some insurers have substantially cut their roster of physicians and hospitals to hold down premiums for the new policies.
“These factors raise substantial concerns that the historic performance of plans may not be representative or complete enough to allow for direct comparisons between plans,” Lee told the Times.
Critics vow to ask the board to reconsider its decision at its Aug. 22 meeting.