NU Online News Service, Feb. 15, 10:03 a.m. – Kaiser Permanente, Oakland, Calif., is supporting Senate Bill 1411, a California state bill that would prohibit health plans from charging holders of individual health insurance policies higher co-pays for maternity services than for other hospital services.

The bill was introduced by state Sen. Jackie Speier, D-San Francisco, chair of the Senate Insurance Committee.

Kaiser, a nonprofit health maintenance organization with 6.1 million members in California, alleges that, up until a month ago, it was the only major carrier in the state that did not charge a hospital maternity services co-pay for holders of individual health coverage.

That policy put Kaiser at a competitive disadvantage when it went up against health plans that charged big co-pays for maternity services, the company says.

In some cases, Kaiser says, the co-pays have been as high as $2,000.

In the individual insurance market, health plans are imposing significantly higher co-pays for labor and delivery than for handling medical conditions that require significantly more expensive care, Kaiser says.

In California, most employer-sponsored health plans already cover maternity services without requiring co-pays, Kaiser says.

The California Senate has posted the bill on the Web at http://info.sen.ca.gov/cgi-bin/postquery?bill_number=sb_1411&sess=CUR&house=B&site=sen