By F. Douglas Stephenson, L.C.S.W., B.C.D.
The Gainesville (Fla.) Sun, January 17, 2018
In order to further sabotage and undermine quality health care insurance for all, President Donald Trump and the GOP proposed “association health insurance plans” that let small businesses band together and insure themselves or buy insurance as a group.
Association health plans have a bad track record over the past 10 years, with dozens of court cases and enforcement actions by federal and state officials. Many turn into criminal cases involving fraud, embezzlement, diversion of premiums and mismanagement, leaving employers and employees with millions of dollars in unpaid medical bills.
Association health plans are not required to provide essential health benefits like mental health, substance abuse treatment and drug coverage, and claim they are will become exempt from all state insurance laws under Trump’s executive order.
When toxic plans like this are approved, it’s clear that our health-insurance system is broken. Like a cracked pipe, money gushes into our health-care system but steadily leaks out. Money is siphoned into the advertising budgets of private-profit insurance companies and the army of corporate bureaucrats working to deny claims.
Even more dollars are soaked up by the pockets of insurance CEOs who have collectively earned $9.8 billion since the Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010. Nearly a third of all of our health-care dollars go to something other than health care.
Another example is the deceptive appeal of profitable “copper catastrophic” plans. They are stunningly inadequate plans that have very low premiums because their actuarial value is only a pathetic 50 percent, giving the illusion of health insurance coverage.
They cover an average of about half of health-care costs. For 2017, the deductible for these plans is $7,150. These plans will work great if you never get sick or have an accident.
Offering only deteriorating financial protection, especially those with larger deductibles, this downward trend can produce severe adverse consequences for the physical, mental and financial health of the insured. Because of the spartan nature of the newly proposed copper catastrophic plans, the adverse consequences can be anticipated to be even more severe.
This latest absurd plan shows once again the fallacy that we can take beneficial policies and detrimental policies and combine them into a reasonable compromise. Good policy for big insurance companies means bad policies for hapless patients and families.
Bad policies cannot be neutralized by political accommodations. Under a well-designed Medicare for all national insurance program, catastrophic plans like these would not exist. The sooner we get to single-payer health insurance, the better it will be for all of us — meanwhile, buyer beware!