Insurance commissioner backs eye care in California health exchange

Published: Friday, Oct. 5, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 6B
Last Modified: Sunday, Oct. 7, 2012 - 12:28 pm

Rancho Cordova's Vision Service Plan has a top government ally in its corner in its fight with a state agency over a new insurance program.

Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones is urging the California Health Benefit Exchange to change the rules in VSP's favor.

Separately, a second eye-care insurer from the region, Superior Vision Services Inc., is also making noise about the rules established by the exchange.

The Health Benefit Exchange – an essential piece of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul – is an online market expected to provide coverage to about 2 million uninsured Californians. The market will start up in 2014. The ruckus is over who gets to sell coverage through the exchange. In August, the exchange said stand-alone vision insurers – like VSP and Superior Vision – could sell to small businesses but not individuals. Individuals represent the biggest piece of the market.

In protest, VSP put off hiring 150 workers. The 2,100-employee company also threatened to leave the area.

The Health Benefit Exchange has said it hopes to resolve the matter later this month.

Jones urged the board to do so. "Allowing vision insurers to offer stand-alone coverage in the Exchange's individual market improves access to health care and promotes consumer choice," he said in a letter to the governing board.

Superior Vision, also based in Rancho Cordova, filed its own protest with the exchange this week. Chief Executive Rick Corbett, in a letter to the exchange's board, said it's a mistake to keep stand-alone insurers from selling eye-care coverage to individuals.

"Nearly 60 million people are covered by stand-alone plans throughout the country," Corbett wrote.

Superior Vision employs 150 workers and has 150,000 policyholders in California.

Editor's note: This story was changed Oct. 5 to clarify that 150,000 is the number of policyholders in California.

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