Impatient | Helping make the health care system work for you

A new law helps you pick a health plan based on its drug coverage

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It's hard for California consumers to shop for a health plan based on their prescription drug needs. That process is going to get easier - eventually - thanks to a new law signed Thursday by Governor Jerry Brown.

We first told you about SB 1052, written by State Senator Norma Torres (D-Pomona), back in May. It requires the state's Department of Managed Health Care and the Department of Insurance to jointly develop a standard template for health insurance companies to use when sharing their drug formularies. A formulary lists the medications an insurer covers, at what cost, and for how long.

This is important, because right now it's really hard to comparison shop based on which medications you use - insurers currently share their drug formularies in different formats.

The new law requires that insurers update their formularies every month. And Covered California will have to provide a link to each company's information.

You can read the text of the bill here.

Unfortunately, the fact that SB 1052 is now law doesn't mean this handy new way to comparison shop will be available when Covered California's next open enrollment period begins in mid-November. It won't even be available for open enrollment in 2015. Or in 2016.

The law gives the Department of Managed Health Care and the Department of Insurance until Jan. 1, 2017 to develop the standard template.