Editorial - An advocate citizens need
Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Ivan Itkin may be thinking about more than citizens' health as he crusades for an independent advocate to help consumers deal with the state's insurance companies. But just because there may be some political motivation behind Itkin's proposal doesn't mean it's a bad idea.
The Pennsylvania Insurance Department says it doesn't need additional help in resolving consumer complaints. But critics note that last year doctors had to file suit against the department after it approved the merger of Pennsylvania Blue Shield and Blue Cross of Western Pennsylvania without requiring any formal public hearings. One of the new agency's first actions was to propose higher premiums for 193,000 "direct pay" customers not covered through employee plans or a managed-care arrangement.
More worrisome, however, is the evolving practice of dealing with insurers' rules on coverage through the legislature. In recent years, after some companies began restricting the number of days they would pay for hospital care after a woman had a mastectomy or gave birth, Pennsylvania lawmakers jumped into action, writing bills to mandate more humane time limits.