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SPECIAL COVERAGE: Living With Wildfires: San Diego Firestorm 10 Years Later

California Lawmakers To Tweak New Rules Governing Insurance Exchange

— Federal officials have released a set of proposed rules for the insurance exchanges that are a key part of healthcare reform. California lawmakers will consider the proposals during a special session next month.

The rules governing insurance exchanges, including what benefits health plans must cover, have just been released by the federal government.

The rules cover the essential health benefits that all insurance plans in the exchange must have, including emergency services, hospitalization and prescription drugs.

The proposals also lay out the conditions under which insurers can vary the cost of plans. Companies will be allowed to factor in age, tobacco use and where a person lives.

Anthony Wright, executive director of the non-profit group Health Access California, said lawmakers will have to make sure so-called regional pricing doesn't get out of hand.

"Some insurers propose that there be in the state of California 100 plus regions," Wright said. "And we have argued for bigger and broader regions of a smaller number, because we wanted to prevent the possibility of red-lining."

States can adopt stronger consumer protections than the federal guidelines. Wright believes California lawmakers are likely to do so.

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