The California State Assembly Health Committee today held a hearing on high-deductible health plans.

Some California insurance regulators and consumer groups have asked whether the plans really are “consumer-directed” or whether they simply shift costs onto the shoulders of consumers at a time when health insurers are enjoying rapid increases in profits.

The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, Santa Monica, Calif., a group that has helped lead efforts to set up a universal health insurance program in California, is tying an attack on limited-benefit health plans to the high-deductible health plan hearing.

The foundation has put out a press release citing an account of a family that bought a limited-benefit “association health plan” that was marketed as full-fledged health coverage. Because the policy had a number of poorly explained coverage limits, including a $1,000-per-day cap on payments for chemotherapy, one widow working with the foundation ended up with $450,000 in unpaid medical bills after her husband died from cancer, the foundation says.

The foundation is asking lawmakers to “cap the amount of money patients must pay out of pocket for health care.”