Calif. Insurance Commissioner Supports Stand-Alone Vision as Health Benefit Exchange Board Reconsiders Decision

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SACRAMENTO, Calif.—With the California Health Benefit Exchange planning to revisit its original decision to disallow stand-alone vision plans from directly participating in the individual health exchange, California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones has weighed in by sending a letter to the board urging it to reverse its decision. He cited improved access to health care and consumer choice as reasons he feels it would be appropriate to allow stand-alone vision coverage to be offered directly through the individual insurance exchange.

While stand-alone vision plans have been barred from the exchange through which individuals in California will be able to purchase health insurance, stand-alone vision plans will be permitted to participate in a separate exchange being established for small businesses.

Because the board’s decision later this month could have a major impact on the business of stand-alone vision plan providers, companies such as VSP Global and Superior Vision Services, both located in Rancho Cordova, Calif., have also expressed their disagreement with the original decision. Rob Lynch, president and CEO of VSP Global, wrote an Op-Ed piece in the Sacramento Business Journal disagreeing with the decision and suggesting that the company would consider moving out of state. In an interview that aired on The Tom Sullivan Show on Sept. 29, Lynch said, “We’ve decided not to invest anymore in California until we see what the outcome is.”

CEO of Superior Vision Services, Rick Corbett also filed a letter with the Exchange board last week encouraging it to reverse its original decision. “If stand-alone vision is not part of the solution, the value proposition for customers will be greatly diminished,” Corbett told VMail.

Others who asked that the board reconsider its policy include Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, Sacramento Metro Chamber president and CEO Roger Niello and Sacramento Area Trade and Commerce Organization president and CEO Barbara Hayes.

Originally scheduled for Oct. 16, the next California Health Benefit Exchange board meeting is now scheduled for Oct. 30, at which time the board will revisit its original decision and decide whether or not stand-alone vision plans will be permitted to directly participate in the individual insurance exchange.

Pat McNeil, VSP Global director of corporate communications, told VMail, “Based on the overwhelming support this issue has received, we are hopeful that the California Health Benefit Exchange will reverse its decision and allow stand-alone vision plans to participate in the individual market.”