On Tuesday, the California Health Benefit Exchange board is expected to approve proposed policy changes that would allow the sale of stand-alone vision plans to individual customers in the exchange, the Sacramento Bee reports (Kasler, Sacramento Bee, 10/27).
About the Exchange
The federal health reform law requires states to launch online insurance marketplaces by 2014. The California Health Benefit Exchange primarily will serve individuals and small businesses.
About 4.4 million Californians are expected to use the exchange by the end of 2016. Officials plan to open registration for the exchange in October 2013.
Background on Sale of Vision Plans
In August, the exchange board voted to allow stand-alone vision plans to be sold to small businesses. However, it decided not to allow the plans to be sold to individual customers because permitting an individual to purchase eye care insurance from a separate company would necessitate splitting subsidies between the individual's main insurance and vision coverage.
Exchange staffers said that the agency decided that the task of splitting subsidies was too difficult to manage in the first year of operating the exchange.
After the board made its decision, Vision Service Plan of Rancho Cordova announced it might relocate its headquarters to another state if it does not have access to individual customers in the exchange.
Last month, the exchange board said it would revisit the decision.
VSP said it would delay hiring 150 workers until the board comes to a final decision.
Meanwhile, another eye care insurer, Superior Vision Services, filed a protest this month against the exchange board's original decision.
In a letter to the exchange board, Rick Corbett -- CEO of Superior Vision Services -- wrote that it is a mistake not to allow the plans to be sold to individual customers. He wrote, "Nearly 60 million people are covered by stand-alone plans throughout the country" (California Healthline, 10/5).
Details of Proposed Changes
In a memo sent to the board on Friday, exchange staffers proposed allowing the sale of stand-alone vision plans to adults.
They also recommended allowing the sale of such plans for children, but they said that the agency first needs to clarify how certain provisions in the health reform law would affect the process.
Reactions to Proposed Changes
Pat McNeil -- corporate communications director for VSP Global -- said the group is "pleased" with the recommendation and "hopeful for a positive vote"
In a statement, Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) said, "Offering stand-alone vision in the individual market not only makes sense, it provides the better option for California consumers," adding, "It also enhances the market for California vision care providers by allowing more participation in the exchange" (Robertson, Sacramento Business Journal, 10/26).