Fighting for Coverage

https://www.managedhealthcareexecutive.com/news/fighting-coverage?rememberme=1&elq_mid=12155&elq_cid=876742&GUID=A13E56ED-9529-4BD1-98E9-318F5373C18F

Fighting for Coverage | Managed Healthcare Executive

One of the main goals of the ACA, sometimes referred to as Obamacare, was to provide affordable health insurance to every American.

The law’s passage in 2010 made it possible for nearly 54 million Americans—previously denied coverage due to pre-existing medical conditions—to purchase coverage, as well as landmark provisions to protect those who developed an expensive medical condition while insured from being unexpectedly dropped by their health plan.

By all accounts, such provisions helped a record number of Americans procure medical insurance coverage—and, by extension, reduce healthcare costs and avoid medical bankruptcies.

Yet, with the elimination of the individual mandate penalty in 2017, and other policy changes that have forced up the cost of premiums, many Americans are looking for options off the healthcare exchange.

One such option is the short-term limited duration insurance (STLDI) plan, loosely defined as bare bones medical coverage that can last up to 12 months with the potential for renewal. Managed Healthcare Executive® Editorial Advisor Margaret Murray, chief executive officer of the Association for Community Affiliated Plans (ACAP), said such plans “are not really insurance,”—and refers to them as “junk insurance.” With a new 2018 HHS rule that dramatically expands access to this type of coverage, she worries that their availability will hurt consumers.

“Insurance brokers may offer these plans to consumers and those consumers may not realize that they largely reverse ACA protections regarding pre-existing conditions and coverage limits,” she says. “These plans don’t cover what you think they will cover, the insurance companies can cancel your policy at any time, and they can deny your access to maternity care and certain drugs. It’s not really major medical insurance and it’s not always easy for your average consumer to see that.”

Changing regulations

The Trump Administration contends, with rising insurance premiums, that such short-term plans make health insurance more affordable for the average American.

Cathryn Donaldson, a spokesperson for America’s Health Insurance Plans, a health insurance trade association, says such plans “can provide a temporary bridge for those who are going through a life transition or gap in coverage such as having a baby or changing jobs.”

Yet, Karen Pollitz, a senior fellow at the Kaiser Family Foundation, says STLDI plans embody the old adage about getting what you pay for. STLDI are not required to comply with many of the ACA’s most important protections, which means insurance companies can exclude coverage for pre-existing conditions, charge higher premiums based on health status, impose annual and/or lifetime caps, and opt out of coverage for things like maternity care or mental health treatment. They can also revoke coverage at will.

“Under the ACA, it used to be that short term and minimum essential coverage [MEC] policies had to have a prominent warning printed on the front place that said, if you buy this, you are not getting full coverage and may even owe a tax penalty,” she explains. “Those warnings are no longer there and that’s of concern.”

Furthermore, late last year, HHS put forth a final rule extending the duration of STLDI from a mere three months up to 364 days. In addition, insurers can offer renewals and extensions for up to three years. What is even more concerning, Murray says, is the current Administration is now actively promoting the use of private web broker sites to market STLDI. This can make it more difficult for consumers to understand which plans offer comprehensive medical coverage and which are the riskier STLDI plans.

“The current administration says such plans offer consumers more affordable options—and more choice,” Murray explains. “But the marketing for these plans is really disingenuous. It’s not just that they are just short-term. They don’t cover what people think they will cover. They are very profitable for insurance companies. But they can be very costly for consumers, who likely won’t realize they don’t have comprehensive coverage until they are sick or injured.”

The fall-out

Over the past few months, several high-profile publications like Consumer Reports and the Washington Post have printed stories about the dangers, and unexpected costs, of STLDI for consumers.

“It’s like you are in the market for a car and someone offers you a really affordable roller-skate,” says Pollitz. “But a roller-skate is not the same thing as a car. It’s not going to get you as far if you really need to travel. And it’s going to cost you more in the long run.”

Murray also cautions more widespread adoption of such plans can affect the entire insurance market, siphoning cost-conscious consumers from risk pools and driving up premium costs for everyone.

“There are always some young invincibles, who think they won’t get sick—and there are some invincibles, too—and they will be attracted by the lower premiums,” she says. “But in doing so, that will leave people who are sicker to pay higher rates by moving people out of the ACA marketplace.”

That’s one reason why ACAP, as well as six other health organizations, filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on September 14, 2018 in order to roll back the new STLDI rule and stop the expansion of such plans. Murray said the HHS rule violates the ACA, “undercutting plans that comply” with the still active legislation. They argue the Trump Administration is using these new rules to try to overturn the ACA—which they have not yet been able to successfully repeal in Congress.

“We thought this was important enough that it was worth suing the federal government in order to try and stop it,” she says. “We had hoped to get a summary judgment last year because we wanted to stop the spread of STLDI plans for the 2020 open enrollment. Unfortunately, we didn’t get that. The judge ruled against us. But we are appealing it—and the hope is that we will have a decision to stop these things being sold in 2021.

The take-home message

Donaldson says it is vital the healthcare community educate consumers about the risks of STLDI plans and make sure they are better aware of what sort of comprehensive plans are available on the Healthcare.gov marketplace.

“While alternative plans such as association health plans and STLDI may present more affordable premiums, they are not a replacement for comprehensive coverage and may not cover the treatments or prescriptions an individual may need throughout the year,” she says.

Pollitz agrees.

“We understand that life happens and there may be all manner of reasons why you are separated from coverage,” she says. “But it is becoming harder and harder to distinguish these plans from real coverage especially now that they are now being aggressively marketed to people all over the country. And it’s vital that people understand that 90% of consumers will play less than the listed price on Healthcare.gov marketplace because they qualify for subsidies. It really does pay to take the time to look before you sign up for one of these short-term plans.”

 

 

 

 

Eligibility for ACA Health Coverage Following Job Loss

Eligibility for ACA Health Coverage Following Job Loss

Eligibility for ACA Health Coverage Following Job Loss – Methods ...

The economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic have led to historic level of job loss in the United States. Social distancing policies required to address the crisis have led many businesses to cut hours, cease operations, or close altogether. Between March 1st and May 2nd, 2020, more than 31 million people had filed for unemployment insurance. Actual loss of jobs and income are likely even higher, as some people may be only marginally employed or may not have filed for benefits. Some of these unemployed workers may go back to work as social distancing curbs are relaxed, though further job loss is also possible if the economic downturn continues or deepens.

In addition to loss of income, job loss carries the risk of loss of health insurance for people who were receiving health coverage as a benefit through their employer. People who lose employer-sponsored insurance (ESI) often can elect to continue it for a period by paying the full premium (called COBRA continuation) or may become eligible for Medicaid or subsidized coverage through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplaces. Over time, as unemployment benefits end, some may fall into the “coverage gap” that exists in states that have not expanded Medicaid under the ACA.

In this analysis, we examine the potential loss of ESI among people in families where someone lost employment between March 1st, 2020 and May 2nd, 2020 and estimate their eligibility for ACA coverage, including Medicaid and marketplace subsidies, as well as private coverage as a dependent (see detailed Methods at the end of this brief). To illustrate eligibility as their state and federal unemployment insurance (UI) benefits cease, we show eligibility for this population as of May 2020 and January 2021, when most will have exhausted their UI benefits.

What are coverage options for people losing ESI?

Eligibility for health coverage for people who lose ESI depends on many factors, including income while working and family income while unemployed, state of residence, and family status. Some people may be ineligible for coverage options, and others may be eligible but opt not to enroll. Some employers may temporarily continue coverage after job loss (for example, through the end of the month), but such extensions of coverage are typically limited to short periods.

Medicaid: Some people who lose their jobs and health coverage—especially those who live in states that expanded Medicaid under the ACA— may become newly eligible1 for Medicaid if their income falls below state eligibility limits (138% of poverty in states that expanded under the ACA). For Medicaid eligibility, income is calculated based on other income in the family plus any state unemployment benefit received (though the $600 per week federal supplemental payment available through the end of July is excluded). Income is determined on a current basis, so prior wages for workers recently unemployed are not relevant. In states that have not expanded Medicaid under the ACA, eligibility is generally limited to parents with very low incomes (typically below 50% of poverty and in some states quite a bit less); thus many adults may fall into the “coverage gap” that exists for those with incomes above Medicaid limits but below poverty (which is the minimum eligibility threshold for marketplace subsidies under the ACA). Undocumented immigrants are ineligible for Medicaid, and recent immigrants (those here for fewer than five years) are ineligible in most cases.

Marketplace: ACA marketplace coverage is available to legal residents who are not eligible for Medicaid and do not have an affordable offer of ESI; subsidies for marketplace coverage are available to people with family income between 100% and 400% of poverty. Some people who lose ESI may be newly-eligible for income-based subsidies, based on other family income plus any state and new federal unemployment benefit received (including the $600 per week federal supplement, unlike for Medicaid).2 While current income is used for Medicaid eligibility, annual income for the calendar year is used for marketplace subsidy eligibility. Advance subsidies are available based on estimated annual income, but the subsidies are reconciled based on actual income on the tax return filed the following year. People who lose ESI due to job loss qualify for a special enrollment period (SEP) for marketplace coverage.3 As with Medicaid, undocumented immigrants are ineligible for marketplace coverage or subsidies. However, recent immigrants, including those whose income makes them otherwise eligible for Medicaid, can receive marketplace subsidies.

ESI Dependent Coverage: People who lose jobs may be eligible for ESI as a dependent under a spouse or parent’s job-based coverage. Some people may have been covered as a dependent prior to job loss, and some may switch from their own coverage to coverage as a dependent.

COBRA: Many people who lose their job-based insurance can continue that coverage through COBRA, although it is typically quite expensive since unemployed workers generally have to pay the entire premium – employer premiums average $7,188 for a single person and $20,576 for a family of four – plus an additional 2%. People who are eligible for subsidized coverage through Medicaid or the marketplaces are likely to opt for that coverage over COBRA, though COBRA may be the only option available to some people who are income-ineligible for ACA coverage.

Short-term plans: Short-term plans, which can be offered for up to a year and can sometimes be renewed under revised rules from the Trump administration, are also a potential option for people losing their employer-sponsored insurance. These plans generally carry lower premiums than COBRA or ACA-compliant coverage, as they often provider more limited benefits and usually deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions. Even when coverage is issued, insurers generally may challenge benefit claims that they believe resulted from pre-existing medical problems; given the long latency between initial infection and sickness with COVID-19, these plans are riskier than usual during the current pandemic. People cannot use ACA subsidies toward short-term plan premiums.

Our analysis examines eligibility for Medicaid, marketplace subsidies, and dependent ESI coverage. We do not estimate enrollment in COBRA, short-term plans, or temporary continuation of ESI. See Methods for more details.

How does coverage and eligibility change following job loss?

Between March 1st, 2020 and May 2nd, 2020, we estimate that nearly 78 million people lived in a family in which someone lost a job. Most people in these families (61%, or 47.5 million) were covered by ESI prior to job loss. Nearly one in five (17%) had Medicaid, and close to one in ten (9%) were uninsured. The remaining share either had direct purchase (marketplace) coverage (7%) or had other coverage such as Medicare or military coverage (6%) (Figure 1).

Eligibility for ACA Health Coverage Following Job Loss | The Henry ...

We estimate that, as of May 2nd, 2020, nearly 27 million people could potentially lose ESI and become uninsured following job loss (Figure 1). This total includes people who lost their own ESI and those who lost dependent coverage when a family member lost a job and ESI. Additionally, some people who otherwise would lose ESI are able to retain job-based coverage by switching to a plan offered to a family member: we estimate that 19 million people switch to coverage offered by the employer of a working spouse or parent. A very small number of people who lose ESI (1.6 million) also had another source of coverage at the same time (such as Medicare) and retain that other coverage. These coverage loss estimates are based on our assumptions about who likely filed for UI as of May 2nd, 2020 and the availability of other ESI options in their family (see Methods for more detail).

Among people who become uninsured after job loss, we estimate that nearly half (12.7 million) are eligible for Medicaid, and an additional 8.4 million are eligible for marketplace subsidies, as of May 2020 (Figure 2). In total, 79% of those losing ESI and becoming uninsured are eligible for publicly-subsidized coverage in May. Approximately 5.7 million people who lose ESI due to job loss are not eligible for subsidized coverage, including almost 150,000 people who fall into the coverage gap, 3.7 million people ineligible due to family income being above eligibility limits, 1.3 million people who we estimate have an affordable offer of ESI through another working family member, and about 530,000 people who do not meet citizenship or immigration requirements. We project that very few people fall into the coverage gap immediately after job loss (as of May 2020) because wages before job loss plus unemployment benefits (including the temporary $600 per week federal supplement added by Congress) push annual income for many unemployed workers in non-expansion states above the poverty level, making them eligibility for ACA marketplace subsidies for the rest of the calendar year.

By January 2021, when UI benefits cease for most people, we estimate that eligibility shifts to nearly 17 million being eligible for Medicaid and about 6 million being eligible for marketplace subsidies (Figure 2), assuming those who are recently unemployed have not found work. Many unemployed workers who are eligible for ACA marketplace subsidies during 2020 would instead be eligible for Medicaid or fall into the coverage gap during 2021. The number in the coverage gap grows to 1.9 million (an increase of more than 80% of its previous size), and the number ineligible for coverage due to income shrinks to 0.9 million.

Estimates of coverage loss and eligibility vary by state, depending largely on underlying state employment by industry and Medicaid expansion status. Not surprisingly, states in which the largest number of people are estimated to lose ESI are large states with many people working in affected industries (Appendix Table 1). Eight states (California, Texas, Pennsylvania, New York, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, and Ohio) account for just under half (49%) of all people who lose ESI. Five of the top eight states have expanded Medicaid, and people eligible for Medicaid among the potentially newly uninsured as of May 2020 in these five states account for 40% of all people in that group nationally. Overall, patterns by state Medicaid expansion status show that people in expansion states are much more likely to be eligible for Medicaid, while those in non-expansion states are more likely to qualify for marketplace subsidies (Figure 3). However, the number of people qualifying for marketplace subsidies is similar across the two sets of states, as more people live in expansion states. Three states that have not expanded Medicaid, including Texas, Georgia, and Florida, account for 30% of people who become marketplace tax credit eligible nationally in May 2020. Assuming unemployment extends into 2021 when UI benefits would likely expire for most families, the proportion eligible for Medicaid would increase in expansion states while non-expansion states may see more nonelderly adults moving into the Medicaid coverage gap (Figure 4; Appendix Table 2).

Figure 3: May 2020 Eligibility for ACA Coverage among People Becoming Uninsured Due to Loss of Employer-Sponsored Insurance, by State Medicaid Expansion Status

Figure 4: January 2021 Eligibility for ACA Coverage among People Becoming Uninsured Due to Loss of Employer-Sponsored Insurance, by State Medicaid Expansion Status

Nearly 7 million people losing ESI and becoming uninsured are children, and the vast majority of them are eligible for coverage through Medicaid or CHIP. Within the 26.8 million people losing ESI and becoming uninsured in May 2020, 6.1 million are children. Because Medicaid/CHIP income eligibility limits for children are generally higher than they are for adults, the vast majority of these children are eligible for Medicaid/CHIP in May 2020 (5.5 million, or 89%) or January 2021 (5.8 million, or 95%).

Discussion

Given the health risks facing all Americans right now, access to health coverage after loss of employment provides important protection against catastrophic health costs and facilitates access to needed care. Unemployment Insurance filings continue to climb each week, and it is likely that people will continue to lose employment and accompanying ESI for some time, though some of them will return to work as social distancing curbs are loosened. The ACA expanded coverage options available to people, and we estimate that the vast majority of people who lose ESI due to job loss will be eligible for ACA assistance either through Medicaid or subsidized marketplace coverage. However, some people will fall outside the reach of the ACA, particularly in January 2021 when UI benefits cease for many and some adults fall into the Medicaid coverage gap due to state decisions not to expand coverage under the ACA.

Both ACA marketplace subsidies and Medicaid are counter-cyclical programs, expanding during economic downturns as people’s incomes fall. In return for additional federal funding to help states finance their share of Medicaid cost during the public health crisis, states must maintain eligibility standards and procedures that were in effect on January 1, 2020 and must provide continuous eligibility through the end of the public health emergency, among other requirements. These provisions may help eligible individuals enroll in and maintain Medicaid, particularly in light of state and federal actions prior to the crisis to increase eligibility verification requirements or transition people off Medicaid.

Our estimates only examine eligibility among people who lost ESI due to job loss and potentially became uninsured. Additional uninsured individuals—including some of the 9% of the 78 million individuals in families where someone lost employment—may also be eligible for Medicaid or subsidized coverage. It is possible that contact with state UI systems may lead them to seek and enroll in coverage, even if they were eligible for financial assistance before job loss but uninsured.

It is unclear whether people losing ESI and becoming uninsured will enroll in new coverage. We did not estimate take-up or enrollment in coverage options but rather only looked at eligibility for coverage. Even before the coronavirus crisis, there were millions of people eligible for Medicaid or marketplace subsidies who were uninsured. Eligible people may not know about coverage options and may not seek coverage; others may apply for coverage but face challenges in navigating the application and enrollment process. Still others may find marketplace coverage, in particular, unaffordable even with subsidies. As policymakers consider additional efforts to aid people, expanding outreach and enrollment assistance, which have been reduced dramatically by the Trump Administration, could help people maintain coverage as they lose jobs.

This is the first economic downturn during which the ACA will be in place as a safety net for people losing their jobs and health insurance. The Trump Administration is arguing in case before the Supreme Court that the ACA should be overturned; a decision is expected by next Spring. The ACA has gaps, and for many the coverage may be unaffordable. However, without it, many more people would likely end up uninsured as the U.S. heads into a recession.

 

 

 

 

Trump rejects Obamacare special enrollment period amid pandemic

https://www.politico.com/news/2020/03/31/trump-obamacare-coronavirus-157788?fbclid=IwAR1nbCE7Uwvo2CNi6d6W5NG9zEIQulyh-noy1RXdk_0RJstMM0C5VYJ8mO4

Trump rejects opening ObamaCare special enrollment period amid ...

Before the coronavirus outbreak, nearly 30 million Americans were uninsured and as many as 44 million were under-insured, paying for bare-bones plans with soaring deductibles and copays. Today, millions more Americans will begin losing their employer-based health insurance because they’ve lost their jobs during this pandemic.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration is still actively trying to repeal the entirety of the Affordable Care Act in court, which would cause an additional 20 million people to lose insurance *in the middle of a pandemic*.

And today, Trump refused to reopen ACA enrollment to those millions of uninsured Americans for a special enrollment window, leaving them without any affordable options to get covered. People are going to die because they can’t afford to seek treatment or end up saddled with thousands of dollars of medical debt if they do. Remember this the next time someone tries to tell you Medicare for All is too radical.

What do you think?

The Trump administration has decided against reopening Obamacare enrollment to uninsured Americans during the coronavirus pandemic, defying calls from health insurers and Democrats to create a special sign-up window amid the health crisis.

President Donald Trump and administration officials recently said they were considering relaunching HealthCare.gov, the federal enrollment site, and insurers said they privately received assurances from health officials overseeing the law’s marketplace. However, a White House official on Tuesday evening told POLITICO the administration will not reopen the site for a special enrollment period, and that the administration is “exploring other options.”

The annual enrollment period for HealthCare.gov closed months ago, and a special enrollment period for the coronavirus could have extended the opportunity for millions of uninsured Americans to newly seek out coverage. Still, the law already allows a special enrollment for people who have lost their workplace health plans, so the health care law may still serve as a safety net after a record surge in unemployment stemming from the pandemic.

Numerous Democratic-leaning states that run their own insurance markets have already reopened enrollment in recent weeks as the coronavirus threat grew. The Trump administration oversees enrollment for about two-thirds of states.

Insurers said they had expected Trump to announce a special enrollment period last Friday based on conversations they had with officials at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which runs HealthCare.gov enrollment. It wasn’t immediately clear why the Trump administration decided against the special enrollment period. CMS deferred comment to the White House.

Trump confirmed last week he was seriously considering a special enrollment period, but he also doubled down on his support of a lawsuit by Republican states that could destroy the entire Affordable Care Act, along with coverage for the 20 million people insured through the law.

People losing their workplace coverage have some insurance options outside of the law’s marketplaces. They can extend their employer plan for up to 18 months through COBRA, but that’s an especially pricey option. Medicaid is also an option for low-income adults in about two-thirds of states that have adopted Obamacare’s expansion of the program.

Short-term health insurance alternatives promoted by Trump, which allow enrollment year-round, is also an option for many who entered the crisis without coverage. Those plans offer skimpier coverage and typically exclude insurance protections for preexisting conditions, and some blue states like California and have banned them or severely restricted them. The quality of the plans vary significantly and, depending on the contract, insurers can change coverage terms on the fly and leave patients with exorbitant medical bills.

Major insurers selling Obamacare plans were initially reluctant to reopen the law’s marketplaces, fearing they would be crushed by a wave of costs from Covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. But the main insurance lobby, America’s Health Insurance Plans, endorsed the special enrollment period roughly two weeks ago while also urging lawmakers to expand premium subsidies to make coverage more affordable for middle-income people.

Congress in last week’s $2 trillion stimulus passed on that request, as well as insurers’ petition for an open-ended government fund to help stem financial losses from an unexpected wave in coronavirus hospitalizations.

Democrats pushing for the special enrollment period are also grappling with the high costs facing many people with insurance despite new pledges from plans to waive cost-sharing. Obamacare plans and a growing number of those offered by employers impose hefty cost-sharing and high deductibles that could still burden infected Americans with thousands of dollar in medical bills.

House Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) on a press call Monday contended that “we also need to have free treatment” after Congress eliminated out-of-pocket costs for coronavirus tests.

“We did the testing, which is now free, and everybody, regardless of their insurance, gets it,” Pallone said. “But that has to be for the treatment as well.”

 

 

 

 

Coronavirus exposing holes in employer insurance

https://www.axios.com/newsletters/axios-vitals-b2d1f1a0-5216-42bc-97d9-2eace5b84c05.html?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=newsletter_axiosvitals&stream=top

The coronavirus is exposing the holes in employer health insurance ...

A record 3.3 million people filed for unemployment in one week, in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, but people didn’t just lose their jobs. Many also lost the health insurance that came with the job, Axios’ Bob Herman reports.

Why it matters: U.S. workers, even those who feel relatively secure in their health benefits, are a pandemic away from falling into the ranks of the uninsured.

Many of the people losing their jobs right now may not have had coverage to begin with — which would make the coronavirus-related disruption smaller, but still highlights the very large holes in this system.

  • The concern: People who get the virus but don’t have insurance are susceptible to high medical bills, or even death if they avoid or are denied treatment.

The big picture: People who lose their jobs have some options.

  • COBRA: This option allows people to keep their employer coverage for up to 18 months. However, people have to pay the full insurance premium — an average of $1,700 a month for a family plan.
  • Medicaid: State Medicaid agencies determine eligibility on current income, so this may be the easiest, lowest-cost way for people to get health coverage.
  • Affordable Care Act plans: The health care law created marketplaces for coverage, and people who lose their jobs can sign up outside the standard enrollment window.
  • Short-term plans: These stopgap plans, promoted by the Trump administration, provide some coverage but often don’t cover major hospitalizations.

 

 

 

 

California accuses healthcare sharing ministry of misleading consumers

https://www.healthcaredive.com/news/california-accuses-healthcare-sharing-ministry-of-misleading-consumers/573900/

Image result for California accuses healthcare sharing ministry of misleading consumers

Dive Brief:

  • The California Department of Insurance issued a cease and desist order to a major Christian group Wednesday for misleading consumers about their health insurance plans and acting as a payer without proper certification, joining a handful of other states scrutinizing the limited coverage.
  • Deceptive marketing by Aliera Healthcare, which sells health ministry plans, and Trinity, which runs them, led to roughly 11,000 Californians belonging to the unapproved “lookalike” plans that don’t cover pre-existing conditions and other required benefits, with no guarantees their claims will be paid, the state’s insurance regulator said.
  • Healthcare sharing ministries (HCSMs) are organizations where members share a common set of religious or ethical beliefs and agree to share the medical expenses of other members. They’re increasingly controversial, as policy experts worry the low-cost insurance attracts healthier individuals from the broader insurance market, creating smaller and sicker risk pools in plans compliant with the Affordable Care Act.

Dive Insight:

Aliera, founded in 2011 and based in Georgia, and Trinity allegedly trained sales agents to promote misleading advertisements to consumers, peddling products that don’t cover pre-existing conditions, abortion, or contraception. The shoddy coverage also doesn’t comply with the federal Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act and the ACA.

The deceptive advertising could have pressured some Californians to buy a health sharing ministry plan because they believed they missed the deadline for buying coverage through Covered California, the state’s official insurance marketplace.

“Consumers should know they may be able to get comprehensive coverage through Covered California that will protect their health care rights,” California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara said in a statement.

HCSMs, which began cropping up more than two decades ago as a low-cost alternative approach to managing growing medical costs, operate either by matching members with those who need help paying medical bills or sharing costs on a voluntary basis. They’re often cheaper than traditional insurance, but they don’t guarantee payment of claims, rarely have provider networks, provide limited benefits and usually cap payments, which can saddle beneficiaries with unexpected bills.

About 1 million Americans have joined the groups, according to the Alliance of Health Care Sharing Ministries.

At least 30 states have exempted HCSMs from state regulation, according to the Commonwealth Fund, meaning the ministries don’t have to comply with health insurance requirements. California does not exempt the religious-based groups from the state insurance code.

In January, Aliera and its subsidiaries, which includes Trinity, were banned from marketing HCSMs in Colorado after being accused of acting as an unlicensed insurer. One month later, Maryland issued a revocation order against Aliera for trying to sell an unauthorized plan in the state. Earlier this month, Connecticut issued a cease and desist order for conducting an insurance business illegally.

Aliera argues states are limiting the choices available to consumers, telling Healthcare Dive it was “deeply disappointing to see state regulators working to deny residents access to more affordable programs.”

“We will utilize all available opportunities to address the false claims being made about the support and management services we provide to Trinity HealthShare and other health care ministries we represent,” Aliera said.

However, Aliera and Trinity don’t meet the Internal Revenue Code’s definition of a health sharing ministry, according to California’s cease and desist, meaning their beneficiaries don’t meet California’s state individual insurance mandate.

The state can impose a fine of up to $5,000 a day for each day the two continue to do business, along with other financial penalties.

 

 

 

 

Miami man with ‘junk plan’ owes thousands after hospital visit for coronavirus symptoms

https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/finance/miami-man-with-junk-plan-owes-thousands-after-hospital-visit-for-coronavirus-symptoms.html?utm_medium=email

Image result for skinny health plans

A man in Miami went to Jackson Memorial Hospital last month to receive a test for coronavirus after developing flu-like symptoms. He didn’t have the virus, but he was hit with a $3,270 medical bill, according to the Miami Herald.   

Osmel Martinez Azcue said he normally would have used over-the-counter medicine to fight his flu-like symptoms. However, since he had recently visited China, he followed the advice of public health experts and went to the hospital to get tested for coronavirus, known as COVID-19. 

Mr. Azcue said hospital staff told him a CT scan would be necessary to screen for coronavirus. He asked to receive a flu test first. The flu test came back positive.

A few weeks after leaving Jackson Memorial Hospital, Mr. Azcue received a $3,270 medical bill. Though he was insured, Mr. Azcue had a so-called “junk plan,” which offered limited benefits and didn’t cover pre-existing conditions.

Based on his insurance plan, Mr. Azcue is responsible for $1,400 of the bill, hospital officials told the Miami Herald. However, to get the claim covered, Mr. Azcue said his insurance company requested three years of medical records to show that his flu didn’t relate to pre-existing conditions.

The sale of “junk plans,” like the one Mr. Azcue pays $180 per month for, expanded after President Donald Trump’s administration rolled back ACA regulations in 2018.

Access the full Miami Herald article here.