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Cross-posted at ACA Signups
An Open Letter to Bill Brann of "Obamacare Alternatives":

Mr. Brann--

On May 25, 2014 you emailed me with the following request:

I am an insurance agent and in the communities I serve...south texas...San Antonio, Austin, we saw limited demand...so these numbers amaze me...can I advertise on your site...and reference you on my site?
I took a look at your website, and I'm a little confused. According to your site, the healthcare policies you offer are "not Obamacare compliant". There's technically no such thing as "Obamacare"...the actual name of the law is "The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act", generally shortened as "the Affordable Care Act." While "Obamacare is a popular nickname for the law, it's a bit troubling to see a supposedly professional insurance agency using slang terminology throughout the website.

While I'm not an expert on the law, aside from existing non-ACA compliant healthcare policies (which have been "grandfathered in" for an extra year or two in some states), it's my understanding that all new healthcare policies sold on the individual market are required to be fully ACA-compliant. If I'm mistaken about this, I apologize in advance, but I have to ask: Are the policies that you're selling even legal under the ACA?

Furthermore, your "Our Letter to You" page states:

...According to many publications, including Newsmax, "Obamacare will bankrupt America". According to Bloomeberg, under Obamacare, healthcare costs are expected to reach nearly 5 Trillion dollars by 2021. Is that the legacy we want to leave our children?

...Democrats and Republicans alike are fighting the Obamacare implementation.

...Can we win against Obamacare? Absolutely. For starters, we can NOT enroll in Obamacare.

Your company is openly and actively opposed (hostile, actually) towards the Affordable Care Act. While I certainly have my share of issues with the law (clearly stated on my FAQ page), overall I feel that it's an improvement over the previous health insurance situation, and I'm personally a progressive Democrat.

As an aside, the entire site, supposedly for a professional insurance agency, is riddled with misspellings and grammatical errors, and your official company blog has exactly 2 entries (the first of which was posted less than a month ago), neither of which contains any actual content.

What on earth made you think that I'd have any interest in promoting your services (or in being associated with them on your own site)?

Genuinely curious,

--Charles Gaba

ACASignups.net

PS I realize that posting this letter on my own site only serves to, ironically, give you the very promotional boost which you're seeking from me (without you having to pay for it, to boot). Perhaps this was your intent in the first place. However, your request was too surreal for me to resist.

UPDATE: Mr. Brann replied with an extensive listing of all of the flaws of the ACA and all of the benefits of his company's services. However, he never came right out and answered my question, whether his services are legal alternatives to ACA-compliant policies. The closest he came to addressing this question was the following:

Understand our product can be purchased as a companion to ACA plans, not necessarily as an substitute.
Ah. Got it. So these are not legal alternatives to ACA-compliant policies; they're "value added" plans of some sort. If so, that's fine...except that the website itself is called "Obamacare Alternatives", and is filled with statements stating that their services have "advantages over Obamacare plans." Anyone visiting the site would logically conclude that they offer a legal alternative to an ACA-compliant plan, not an add-on service.

Needless to say, I've respectfully declined his offer.

UPDATE x2: OK, Mr. Brann has explained himself further. He insists that his policies are indeed legal. His defense of them is as follows:

Consumers are aware that penalties existing for non-enrollment and we make that clear. But what is a penalty? Do you know what a stock option is? Isn't it a cheaper way to hedge on a financial product? Consumers who refuse to enroll will still be able to go on ACA in November..no harm no foul...with a small price paid in the form of a penalty without having to "buy the cow".  At which point they can keep our benefits and enroll in ACA KEEPING BOTH.
I actually checked every page on his website. Nowhere does it "make it clear" that there are penalties for "non-enrollment" (in fact, there's no mention of "fees" or "penalties" for not having legal healthcare coverage anywhere on the site). As for the rest of it, my take is that he's basically saying that all people have to do is pay the financial penalty while also buying his product and they'll still come out ahead. I doubt that this is true, but even if it is, that's still not even close to what he's pitching his wares as. This may not meet the legal definition of fraudulant advertising, but it sure as hell strikes me as shady.

As for why he thought that I'd be interested in working with him (emphasis mine):

I think you're a pretty intelligent guy and I like your work. When I check out your info...you do a great job of presenting data in an unbiased format. I think it was you who were quoted recently in a conservative site as being in dismay at the administration refusing to release membership information, effective immediately. Is that still the case? Are the expecting a drop in enrollment?
Compliments aside, he answered the question pretty clearly.

UPDATE x3: Don't be surprised if Mr. Brann slaps some sort of reference to the fee/penalty for not having compliant coverage over the next day or so; he sent a final response which included the following:

I'm going to take your advice and include a section on penalties, and we will put on the front page a statement about that. That's good advice.
On the one hand, I do appreciate him doing so. On the other hand, he had just finished claiming that they already "make it clear" that there's a penalty for not having compliant coverage, so I'm not exactly impressed by this promise.

In any event, based on the comments over at ACASignups.net and elsewhere, I'm starting to get the gist of what he's selling. It's basically the healthcare equivalent of those quasi-legal "payday loans" which in this case charge "low" rates but give out even lower benefits. Basically, a shorter version of the same sorts of "junk" policies which the ACA tried to get rid of in the first place, except that these are apparently limited to the "off-season".

As for the "quoted in a conservative site" bit, it sounds to me like he probably never even heard of me or this site up until my HHS rant was quoted by a couple of right-wing outlets last week. Sounds like I can expect to be contacted by a few more right-wingers who think I'm "one of them" in the near future.

On the other hand, it's actually been somewhat educational, so in a weird sort of way I kind of thank him for contacting me, and he's been oddly filled with praise for me and the site even when I flat-out accused him of dishonesty. Interesting.

NOTE: I've updated the title to provide clarity: These sorts of policies are not necessarily illegal, but they sure sound shaky and make me very uneasy.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I believe that site offers "fixed indemnity" plans (6+ / 0-)

    These are legal, but as you point out, don't meet the minimum essential coverage criteria, which would be necessary to avoid the individual mandate portion of the ACA.  If I remember correctly,  the very first "Obamacare horror story victim" from Florida had a similar plan, which payed out $50 as a benefit.

  •  might be that (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    KenBee, FloridaSNMOM

    the elastic is too tight somewhere ?
    has "409" friends ?

    TRAILHEAD of accountability for Bush-2 Crimes? -- Addington's Perpwalk.

    by greenbird on Mon May 26, 2014 at 06:13:57 PM PDT

  •  I thought that insurance agents had to be (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    G2geek

    licensed within a state - and they have penalties for lying to consumers.  

    Can anybody advise?

    "Privatize to Profitize" explains every single Republican economic, social and governing philosophy. Take every taxpayer dollar from defense, education, health care, public lands, retirement - privatize it, and profit from it.

    by mumtaznepal on Mon May 26, 2014 at 07:39:50 PM PDT

  •  is this firm offering that kind of indusurance (0+ / 0-)

    part of any organized network of firms offering a 'distraction' insurance marketed as Obamacare alternative with anti-Obamacare apocalyptic predictions?

    In other words, since this is part of an organized lying campaign, who is doing the overall planning and coordination of the lying campaign?

  •  As insurace, it would all be patently illegal (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FloridaSNMOM, Brainwrap, Vatexia, thomask

    The four policy types listed on the home page have extremely limited coverage with maximum caps. Apparently they have a legal dodge that lets them pretend that they are selling insurance when they are not, as described below.

    As far as I can tell Obamacare Alternatives is not listed as an agency with the Texas Department of Insurance. The search engine on the TDI site did not turn up a listing for them. One can call at 512-463-6169 or 1-800-252-3439 to find out.

    Here is a link to a related organization that has multitudes of skanky-looking listings.

    Portland Benefits Group/Obamacare Alternatives

    Obamacare Alternatives is listed as an option, with a link to a story, at Alternative insurance directly challenges Obamacare coverage, which appears to be equally skanky.

    Bill Brann, one of the partners at Obamacare Alternatives, described a little bit about the life insurance policy that is part of the package they often put together for people, and also shared with me his own experience as a self-pay patient (Bill said it was OK to share this info on my blog):
       We market as 1 part of our package a term life policy that’s very unique. It comes with 2 important riders that “accelerate” the death benefit on diagnosis of cancer, heart attack and stroke. Meaning you don’t have to die to get the money. A 1,000,000 life insurance policy will pay 90%, 900,000 in CASH benefits to a cancer diagnosis…

        The critical illness accelerated benefit rider “accelerates the death benefit” on those critical illnesses mentioned. Just as important is the chronic illness rider, which accelerates on chronic illness, another import feature.

        The chronic illness rider is huge – basically a long term care benefit. If I can’t do 2 of 6 adl’s (activities of daily living) I get the money. Up to 90% to 2,000,000 in face amount becomes a cash benefit to the insured. I’m a 52 male. My premium for a 20 year level $2 million policy is $421.63 per month. Our carrier is American National an A+ company out of Galveston, Texas.

        We also combine it with a cancer policy which we believe is the strongest in the country. My FAMILY rate is $125.00 per month and it pays $90,000 per year for radiation and chemo as well as travel to care, and surgery. It also covers specific dread diseases such as MS, etc.  

        Last but not least is the critical illness policy which I have my whole family on which is a 50K cash benefit for cancer , heart, stroke. It’s about $100.00 a month. On a cancer, heart, or stroke diagnosis I get $50k up front and the cancer benefit kicks in. The cancer treatment plan takes over for treatment. If it’s a protracted battle I can draw down the $1.8 million from my life and settle in, ready for the worse financially…

        We’ve been recommending this plan to self-employed business owner of all types with success.

        Office visits, x-rays, etc. are all paid cash. I’ve located a facility here in Corpus that utilizes nurses aids, and provides office visits for $60.00 and kids $30.00. Here’s their site. They get highest marks from local consumer agency.

        The life insurance is the biggest part of the plan cost, which I would have had anyway…

    My original blog post about the Obamacare Alternatives agency suggested that they were only licensed to work with people in Texas, Bill has since explained to be [me?] that they are actually able to work in all 50 states.
    I would be fascinated to see all of those registrations. My father was Vice President of an insurance company, and he talked about the amount of work it took to get a policy approved in 50 states. I know of no genuine independent agency that is licensed that widely, and I do not believe that it is actually possible.

    Also, the quote makes it clear that this is not insurance, but is marketed as "accelerated death benefits" on term life plans in order to get around the law.

    A search on Google for

    Obamacare scam
    returns a depressingly large number of results.

    Back off, man. I'm a logician.—GOPBusters™

    by Mokurai on Mon May 26, 2014 at 09:34:14 PM PDT

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