Sen. Ted W. Lieu pushes plan to protect consumers from deceptive marketing of health reform

February 20, 2013
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Consumer-protection measure would protect new health-care enrollees
SACRAMENTO – Health care consumers would have better protections against deceptive marketing of medical services under a measure announced today by Sen. Ted W. Lieu of Torrance.

“Millions of Californians will soon have access to affordable health care coverage, many for the first time in their lives,” Lieu said. “We know from past experiences, however, that dishonest people take advantage of the consumers’ lack of knowledge about new opportunities or enrollment criteria.”

To address the potential for scams, Senate Bill 353 seeks to boost consumer confidence and trust in health care reform by strengthening consumer protections and closing gaps in state law. Under the Affordable Care Act, immigrants who are citizens or lawful permanent residents are eligible to apply for subsidies to purchase insurance offered in the California Health Benefit Exchange and certain public programs.

At the same time, SB 353 would require prior approval of marketing materials, and extend these protections to health insurance products regulated by the California Department of Insurance. This process currently exists under the California Department of Managed Health Care.

“As new health care coverage becomes available to millions of Californians, we can expect scam to take advantage of vulnerable consumers,” Sarah de Guia, director of Government Affairs for the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network, said. “This bill provides important safeguards to help consumers get accurate and fair information they need to enroll their families into the best coverage.”

Lieu said his provisions would provide a greater degree of confidence for eligible immigrant families, eager to enroll in new health coverage programs that will be offered in 2014. “Many immigrants are vulnerable to this type of abuse because they live in fear of deportation, they lack documentation, or do not speak English,” Lieu said. “This bill would go a long way toward providing peace of mind to immigrants and their families who want to know that the information they are receiving about health care programs is accurate.”

SB 353 also includes language ensuring that those who do not speak English are able to access key enrollment documents, eligibility criteria and benefits in their native language by requiring health plans and insurers that market to non-English speakers provide translated written documents in the same languages.

“These provisions are critical for the 40 percent of Californians who do not speak English at home,” de Guia said. 

According to CPEHN’s recently updated report, more than 1 million of the 2.7 million individuals eligible for the Exchange will speak English less than very well.

“Communities of color, small businesses, and limited English proficient communities all stand to benefit the most from health care reform,” de Guia said. “But these are also the communities that have the least knowledge about what is required under the ACA. SB 353 would help California maximize enrollment in new health care programs by strengthening consumer confidence in these programs.” 

SB 353 has not yet been scheduled for its first policy review, but that will likely occur within the next few weeks. A similar measure from last year passed policy committee but was held in the Senate Appropriations Committee. 

For more, please visit Lieu’s Web site at the address below.

Ted W. Lieu represents nearly 1.3 million residents of Senate District 28, which includes the cities of Carson, El Segundo, Hermosa Beach, Lomita, Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach and Torrance, as well as portions of Long Beach, Los Angeles and San Pedro. With redistricting, Lieu also is responsible for constituents in Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, Pacific Palisades, Palos Verdes Peninsula, West Hollywood, West Los Angeles, and portions of Hollywood. For more, visit www.senate.ca.gov/lieu.

PHOTO BY LORIE SHELLEY


CONTACT: Ray Sotero
Communications Director
Sen. Ted W. Lieu, Senate District 28
Capitol Building, Room 4061
Sacramento, Calif. 95814
(916) 651-4028 office
www.sen.ca.gov/Lieu