TMA Says Patients Need Easy-to-Read Health Insurance Labels -- House Insurance Committee to Hear Label Bill Today

For Immediate Release
March 31, 2009

 

 

 

 

 

Contact: Pam Udall
phone: (512) 370-1382
cell: (512) 413-6807
Pam Udall

Brent Annear
phone: (512) 370-1381
cell: (512) 656-7320
Brent Annear

 

 

Many people find deciphering their health insurance policies impossible. The information is in the policy, but it is lengthy and difficult for the average consumer to comprehend. Plus, many important nuances about a patient's coverage are in the fine print.

The Texas Medical Association (TMA) has a solution: What if you could understand what's in your health insurance policy as easily as you can understand what's in a can of soup? What if you could compare two different health plans as easily as you can compare the calories in two different jars of peanut butter?  

"Doctors believe it is time for health plans to make the policies easier for patients to understand," says TMA President Josie R. Williams, MD. "Premiums are expensive, yet how many of us clearly know the details when it is time to purchase insurance? Patients and employers should be better informed, so buying coverage is less of a leap of faith."

People are accustomed to comparing nutrition labels on food. How much fat? Sodium content? This labeling allows the consumer to examine products side-by-side and make educated decisions about their purchases. Doing the same with health insurance would enable people to easily compare policies and see key ingredients such as average out-of-pocket costs, total annual costs, copays, deductibles, and even how much of their premium dollar is going toward actual health care.

TMA is working with state legislators to require insurers to simplify health plans and make them more patient-friendly. Sen. Kirk Watson (D-Austin) is sponsoring Senate Bill 815, and Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston) has filed the companion, House Bill 1932. Each would require health insurance plans to provide standardized "product labels" to help employers and individuals make direct side-by-side product comparisons. In fact, HB 1932 will be taken up today in the House Insurance Committee. "We hope lawmakers get behind this simple concept," adds Dr. Williams. "Employers and patients need accurate, current, and honest information on copays, deductibles, and health plan networks to make good decisions in today's health care market. That's not too much to ask."

This recommendation is among several health insurance reforms promoted by TMA this legislative session as part of Doctor's Orders: TMA's Prescription for a Healthy Texas, TMA's 2009 legislative platform . The insurance labeling legislation also is part of TMA's Patients' Right to Know campaign, which calls on patients and physicians to help make health insurance more accessible and transparent. Among other tools, TMA created www.MeAndMyDoctor.com , a Web site with a grassroots action center where patients can write their legislators in support of health insurance reform bills. Educational materials will be displayed in physician offices to inform and engage patients.

TMA is the largest state medical society in the nation, representing nearly 44,000 physician and medical student members. It is located in Austin and has 120 component county medical societies around the state. TMA's key objective since 1853 is to improve the health of all Texans.

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