Major insurance groups call part of health bill 'unworkable'

July 15, 2017 by Alan Fram
In this July 13, 2017 file photo, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. walks to his office on Capitol Hill in Washington. Republicans' latest health care plan would create winners and losers among Americans up and down the income ladder, and across age groups. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

Two of the insurance industry's most powerful organizations say a crucial provision in the Senate Republican health care bill allowing the sale of bare-bones policies is "unworkable in any form," delivering a blow to party leaders' efforts to win support for their legislation.

The language was crafted by conservative Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and leaders have included it in the overall in hopes of winning votes from other congressional conservatives. But moderates have worried it will cause with serious illnesses to lose coverage, and some conservatives say it doesn't go far enough.

Two of the 52 GOP senators have already said they will oppose the legislation. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell cannot lose any others for the legislation to survive a showdown vote expected next week.

The overall measure represents the Senate GOP's attempt to deliver on the party's promise to repeal President Barack Obama's law, which they've been pledging to do since its 2010 enactment.

The criticism of Cruz's provision was lodged in a rare joint statement by America's Health Care Plans and the BlueCross BlueShield Association. The two groups released it late Friday in the form of a letter to McConnell, R-Ky.

"It is simply unworkable in any form," the letter said. They said it would "undermine protections for those with pre-existing medical conditions," increase premiums and lead many to lose coverage.

The provision would let insurers sell low-cost policies with skimpy coverage, as long as they also sell policies that meet a stringent list of services they're required to provide under Obama's law, like mental health counseling and prescription drugs.

Cruz says the proposal would drive down premiums and give people the option of buying the coverage they feel they need.

Critics say the measure would encourage healthy people to buy the skimpy, low-cost plans, leaving sicker consumers who need more comprehensive coverage confronting unaffordable costs. The insurers' statement backs up that assertion, lending credence to wary senators' worries and complicating McConnell's task of winning them over.

The two groups say premiums would "skyrocket" for people with preexisting conditions, especially for middle-income families who don't qualify for the bill's tax credit. They also say the plan would leave consumers with fewer insurance options, so "millions of more individuals will become uninsured."

According to an analysis by the BlueCross BlueShield Association, major federal consumer protections would not be required for new plans permitted by the Cruz amendment.

Among them: guaranteed coverage at standard rates for people with pre-existing conditions, comprehensive benefits, of preventive care—including birth control for women—at no added cost to the consumer, and limits on out-of-pocket spending for deductibles and copayments.

The bill provides $70 billion for states to use to help contain rising costs for people with serious conditions. But the insurance groups' statement says that amount "is insufficient and additional funding will not make the provision workable for consumers or taxpayers."

The Cruz provision language in the bill is not final. McConnell and other Republicans are considering ways to revise it in hopes of winning broader support.

McConnell and top Trump administration officials plan to spend the next few days cajoling senators and home-state governors in an effort to nail down support for the bill.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office is expected to release its analysis of McConnell's revised bill early next week, including an assessment of Cruz's plan.

The office estimated that McConnell's initial bill would have caused 22 million additional people to be uninsured.

Explore further: Senate consumer choice idea could raise premiums for sick

Related Stories

Senate consumer choice idea could raise premiums for sick

July 12, 2017
A health care proposal from Senate conservatives would let insurers sell skimpy policies provided they also offer a comprehensive plan. It's being billed as pro-consumer, allowing freedom of choice and potential savings for ...

Republican health plan takes hit as forecast says 22 mn could lose coverage

June 27, 2017
Senate Republicans struggling to boost support for their "Obamacare" repeal bill were dealt a damaging blow Monday with the release of a non-partisan report forecasting that the plan would leave 22 million more Americans ...

New Republican health bill teeters, with support in doubt

July 13, 2017
Republican leaders unveiled a retooled health care bill Thursday aimed at salvaging President Donald Trump's top legislative priority, but the fresh effort was already on life support as it faced skepticism from within the ...

Survey: US uninsured up by 2M this year as gains erode

July 10, 2017
The number of U.S. adults without health insurance has grown by some 2 million this year, according to a major new survey that finds recent coverage gains beginning to erode.

Senate Republicans unveil US health bill—but lack votes to pass it (Update)

June 22, 2017
US Senate Republicans on Thursday unveiled a revamped health care plan aimed at fulfilling President Donald Trump's pledge to repeal Obamacare, but a revolt by four conservatives put the bill in immediate jeopardy.

US Senate delays summer break amid health care impasse

July 11, 2017
The US Senate will take the rare step of delaying its summer break by two weeks to focus on breaking an impasse over health care reform and other pending work, Republican leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday.

Recommended for you

Americans are getting more sleep

January 19, 2018
Although more than one in three Americans still don't get enough sleep, a new analysis shows first signs of success in the fight for more shut eye. According to data from 181,335 respondents aged 15 and older who participated ...

Wine is good for you—to a point

January 18, 2018
The Mediterranean diet has become synonymous with healthy eating, but there's one thing in it that stands out: It's cool to drink wine.

Sleep better, lose weight?

January 17, 2018
(HealthDay)—Sleeplessness could cost you when it's time to stand on your bathroom scale, a new British study suggests.

Who uses phone apps to track sleep habits? Mostly the healthy and wealthy in US

January 16, 2018
The profile of most Americans who use popular mobile phone apps that track sleep habits is that they are relatively affluent, claim to eat well, and say they are in good health, even if some of them tend to smoke.

Improvements in mortality rates are slowed by rise in obesity in the United States

January 15, 2018
With countless medical advances and efforts to curb smoking, one might expect that life expectancy in the United States would improve. Yet according to recent studies, there's been a reduction in the rate of improvement in ...

Can muesli help against arthritis?

January 15, 2018
It is well known that healthy eating increases a general sense of wellbeing. Researchers at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have now discovered that a fibre-rich diet can have a positive influence ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.