NU Online News Service, March 26, 2:35 p.m. — Reno, Nev.

Consumer advocates here for the spring meeting of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, Kansas City, Mo., asked regulators to make sure that health insurance policies are effective as well as affordable.

Many health insurance policies, even those offered through associations, are unreliable, Mila Kofman, a researcher from George Washington, said at a consumer liaison meeting.

Before insurers can stabilize the cost of health insurance, they must set prices high enough to reflect the cost of providing the coverage promised, Kofman argued.

“People have to be honest about the discussion,” Kofman said. “Health care costs money.”

Kofman recommended that states make sure that health insurance products are priced appropriately, then deal with the issue of affordability separately.

Some states have tried to compromise between quality and affordability by allowing insurers to sell special “barebones policies” that offer fewer benefits than ordinary state-regulated health insurance policies.

Evidence suggests that, at the end of the day, employers that buy the barebone policies save very little, said Alice Weiss, director of health policy for the National Partnership for Women & Families, Washington.

Employers do not want to pay for barebones coverage because the coverage offers employees inadequate benefits, Weiss said.