Consumer Reports: "Stingy plans may be worse than none at all"
That's quite the statement. If only our outrage-prone intrepid media would dig into it.
Junk health insurance
Stingy plans may be worse than none at all
by Consumer Reports magazine; consumerreports.org -- March 2012
It might seem to be health insurance, if you don’t look too closely, and most people don’t. The premiums are surprisingly affordable. And so millions of unemployed people, service industry workers, and those taken in by fast-talking telemarketers sign up. They may think they’re insured-- until they have a medical problem and find out that their coverage is as skimpy as a hospital gown.
Legal but inadequate
“I was aware that it wasn’t a great plan, but I wasn’t concerned because I wasn’t sick,” she says. But in July 2011 she was diagnosed with breast cancer, at which point the policy’s annual limits of $1,000 a year for outpatient treatment and $2,000 for hospitalization became a huge problem. Facing a $30,000 hospital bill, she delayed treatment.
‘Insurance’ that isn’t
Fixed benefit indemnity plans. [...]
Medical discount cards. [...]
The problem, say regulators and consumer advocates, is that all too often they’re sold to unsuspecting consumers as if they were health insurance -- these days, sometimes with the implication that the plans are part of health care reform. “It’s amazing how quickly these companies appear and disappear,” says Stephen Finan, senior director of policy for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. “They’re small operations that are one step ahead of the sheriff.”
And "they disappear faster" than a form letter that says:
We regret to inform you that your "policy" has been cancelled ... Blame the president and the ACA.
As always WE appreciate your business.
Your unchecked underwriters, Incorporated, Ltd.
Mother Jones: "Insurance companies ripped off Americans for years with lousy health plans. Obamacare was designed to fix that."
Insurance companies ripped off Americans for years with lousy health plans. Obamacare was designed to fix that.
by Stephanie Mencimer, motherjones.com -- Nov. 4, 2013
The fastest growing group of underinsured was people in households around the national median income, the $40,000 to $50,000 annual income range -- folks who make too much to qualify for Medicaid but who don't have employer-sponsored plans or who can't afford the ones they're offered. Insurance companies jumped into the void with a lot of products Consumer Reports dubbed "junk insurance." These were plans that barely qualified as insurance because they had very low caps on coverage or weren't even really insurance at all. Many were merely medical discount programs that didn't protect against health-related financial calamity. Insurance companies, including many of the biggest, marketed these products aggressively and often misleadingly -- which was made easier by the lack of disclosure requirements in the sale of health insurance. Regulators struggled to protect consumers because so many of the junk plans were perfectly legal.
Take the case of HealthMarkets Inc., a company owned by the Goldman Sachs Group and Blackstone Group, two Wall Street giants. It had run-ins with state regulators repeatedly regarding its sale of junk health insurance on the individual market. The company paid out more than $40 million in settlements with state attorneys general over its deceptive sales practices between 2008 and 2010. In 2009, for example, after a long investigation, the Massachusetts attorney general fined the company $17 million and banned it from doing business in the state for five years.
AARP ended up discontinuing some, but not all, of the plans. Today, the individual market is still plagued by consumer abuses that have left many people at risk of medical bankruptcy or lack of access to care. "A lot of insurance that is sold today is like a Swiss cheese insurance policy. It's insurance that doesn't really insure,” says Ron Pollack, the executive director of Families USA, a health care advocacy group that supports the ACA.
THIS is what the Republicans -- and much of the National Media -- is in such a schadenfreude selective outrage about ... these 5% of Insurance Policies that are not even worthy of the word. And the uninformed consumers "who are happy with them."
THIS is what President Obama just agreed to "fix" in the ongoing ACA rollout -- the extension of even more of these Junk Policies, to those uninformed consumers "who are happy with them." Assuming of course, those Junk Insurers haven't already rolled up their 3-Card Monty game, and left town, that is,
THIS is what passes for consumer-protection, and investigative journalism, in the greatest Free-Market, Buyer-Beware, 20% ROI Capital Investment, Money-machine on Earth.
... Just as long as Obama keeps his promise, then all is well in their Life-and-Death stakes game of Conservative Truth-telling Gotcha. ... And just as long as their Faux-concerned Dialog can just keep on spinning, on its fruit-loops axis.
Just as long as we Let the Buyers be damned ... based on their very uninformed, "but happy" individual decisions. As financially fine-print-damning as they may ultimately be.