In a letter to the California Health Benefit Exchange board, state Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones (D) urged officials to allow the sale of stand-alone vision plans to individual customers in the exchange, the Sacramento Bee reports.
Jones wrote, "Allowing vision insurers to offer stand-alone coverage in the exchange's individual market improves access to health care and promotes consumer choice" (Kasler, Sacramento Bee, 10/5).
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.
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 will revisit the decision (California Healthline, 9/19). It expects to resolve the matter this month.
VSP has delayed hiring 150 workers until the board comes to a final decision.
Second Vision Plan Protests Board's Decision
Meanwhile, another eye care insurer, Superior Vision Services, filed a protest this week 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" (Sacramento Bee, 10/5).