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California Health Insurance Bills Pass Key Committees

A pair of identical bills that would change the market for Californians buying health insurance passed key state committees today.

Under the measures, California health insurers could only set premium rates based on age, geography and family size starting in 2014.

The legislation would not let insurers charge smokers more for coverage, even though the federal health law allows for it. Assembly member Bill Monning authored one of the measures. “People have asked ‘why not, isn’t it fair to charge tobacco users more?’ The concern that we share is that, what we don’t want to price somebody out of the market altogether," said Monning.

Patrick Johnston of the California Association of Health Plans wants the bills changed so smokers could be paying more. “By eliminating tobacco rating, the state would force non-smokers to subsidize the smokers’ tobacco-related health care costs," said Johnston.

The bills will move on to votes in both houses this month.

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