Monday, June 16, 2008

Republican Health Plan Throws Consumers Into Bloody Insurance Waters

Health Insurance Companies Families USA surveyed state Insurance Commissioners and found out consumers have very few protection in the free marketplace. Remember, this is the place Republicans want all of us to be, making our own decisions and so they can blame us later for not buying enough insurance to prevent death or bankruptcy. I will let the survey tell the rest of the story:

Families USA reveals that insurance companies in most states are not prohibited from denying health coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, refusing to pay for services needed to treat common ailments, adding huge premium surcharges for people with family histories of health problems, and yanking policies and denying payments when consumers face a rash of medical bills. The key findings include:
* Only five states prohibit insurance companies from “cherry-picking” the healthiest consumers and excluding everyone else from coverage.
* In 35 states and the District of Columbia, there are no limits on how much insurers can raise premiums based on an individual’s health status.
* In 21 states and the District of Columbia, insurers can exclude coverage for pre-existing conditions, such as cancer and heart ailments, for more than one year.
* In 44 states and the District of Columbia, insurers can revoke an individual’s health insurance policy without advance review by the state.
* In 29 states and the District of Columbia, insurers are allowed to deny legitimate claims of policyholders who are up-to-date with their premium payments by digging back years into their medical history and alleging that they failed to disclose, or should have known about, a pre-existing condition.
* In 45 states and the District of Columbia, insurers do not have to spend at least 75 percent of premium revenues on health care, which allows insurers to retain those revenues for profits and non-health care expenses (such as marketing).

“The individual health insurance market is still the wild, wild west for America’s health care consumers,” said Ron Pollack, Executive Director of Families USA.

Some elected officials propose to reduce employer-sponsored health coverage and replace it with a more deregulated individual insurance market. This, according to Pollack, would be a big step backwards for health care consumers. “Moving people from employer-sponsored group coverage to individual insurance, especially in a more deregulated context, would make a bad situation worse for health care consumers,” said Pollack. “It would mean that more and more consumers would fall prey to abusive practices of too many insurance companies.”

We were warned.

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