SACRAMENTO, Calif., May 6, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Legislation aimed at outlawing health insurance plans from rewarding consumers with lower premiums or reduce out-of-pocket expenses for engaging in wellness programs was condemned today for "stifling innovation by depriving state residents of methods proven to improve health and save lives" by Dr. Sean Penwell, chief medical officer of SeeChange Health ( www.SeeChangeHealth.com).
The legislation, Senate Bill 189, introduced by State Senator Bill Monning (D- Carmel), passed out of the Senate Health Committee on Wednesday. Proponents of the bill claim financial rewards offered by some wellness and preventive programs discriminate against the poor and shifts costs from healthy to less healthy insureds.
In his testimony before the Senate Health Committee, Dr. Penwell disputed this conclusion citing a RAND Corporation study sponsored by the Obama Administration that found no evidence of such discrimination. "What that study did find is that for every dollar spent on a wellness program, $3.00 in savings was generated for both direct medical costs and productivity," Dr. Penwell noted.
Even more important, these wellness programs improve the quality of life enjoyed by participants and saves lives. Dr. Penwell reported on the experience of a San Diego man, "a body builder and the picture of perfect health" who participated in a wellness program included in his SeeChange Health Insurance policy. The screening discovered a previously undiagnosed cancer. The early detection allowed for less intrusive treatment than would have otherwise been the case and he is doing well. "If Senate Bill 189 had been law last year," Dr. Penwell warned, "this individual would likely be dead."Describing the legislation as not only misguided, but unnecessary, Dr. Penwell reminded Health Committee members that the Obama Administration was putting forward regulations addressing the same concerns underlying SB 189, "but they're doing so in a responsible, effective way by implementing well thought-out safeguards." He urged the lawmakers to study the impact and effectiveness of the federal regulations before going beyond them and forcing the withdrawal of meaningful preventive care programs.