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Exchanges eye the unbanked

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Managers of Covered California may require individual exchange plan issuers to accept cash payments through neighborhood utility offices or other brick-and-mortar offices.

The managers discuss payment options in a premium payment report in a packet for an upcoming board meeting.

All of the 12 sellers of individual “qualified health plans” (QHPs) will be taking personal checks, cashier’s checks, money orders, Visa, MasterCard, debit cards and electronic fund transfers.

Five issuers will take the Discover card, and two will take American Express payments.

Half will take cash.

In the dental plan market, all six carriers have agreed to take personal checks, cashier’s checks, money orders, Visa, MasterCard, debit card payments and electronic fund transfers, but only half will take Discover or American Express cards. None will take cash.

California exchange officials estimate that about 1 million state residents have no bank accounts.

Officials fear letting QHP issuers choose whether to take cash could lead to antiselection problems.

Eventually, “Covered California and the plans want to implement common payment processes that will foster the enrollment and retention of all individuals, with particular attention to those who are unbanked,” officials said.

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