Statewide law aims to ease insurance costs

Some bills made it through the governor’s desk Thursday night and some didn’t.

Yet with all of the hype around national health care reform, the governor would have been remiss not to sign off on legislation that would make it easier on California consumers to shop for affordable health insurance starting 2014.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed AB 1602, creating the California Health Benefit Exchange, an entity that will help California consumers and small businesses shop for and buy affordable health insurance. This makes California the first state in the nation to sign off on legislation creating a health benefit exchange under federal health care reform.

The California Health Benefit Exchange will make it easier for individuals and employees of small businesses to compare plans and buy health insurance in the private market using federal tax subsidies to make health coverage more affordable. Federal health care reform makes tax credits and subsidies available in 2014 to Californians with incomes between 133 and 400 percent of the federal poverty level (approximately $29,000 to $88,000 for a family of four).

“For national reform to succeed, it will be up to the states to make it work, and California is moving forward on reforms that will provide affordable and quality health care insurance,” Schwarzenegger said. “Choice and competition have the power to improve health care quality and reduce health care costs for California consumers. With the California Health Benefit Exchange, we will be able to create a competitive marketplace where consumers can choose among qualified health plans – all without relying on the state’s General Fund.”

It’s on par with his earlier statements, saying he would take aggressive action to foster competition and make health insurance cheaper for state residents.

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