10.04.19

Peters, Stabenow Urge Trump Administration to Protect Michiganders with Preexisting Health Conditions

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Gary Peters (MI) and Debbie Stabenow (MI) urged the Trump Administration to protect Americans from health insurance plans that discriminate against people with preexisting medical conditions, including 4.1 million Michiganders. In a letter to Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar and Medicare & Medicaid Administrator Seema Verma, Peters, Stabenow and their Senate colleagues highlighted the need to reverse the Administration’s rule on state waivers. These waivers would allow taxpayer dollars to bankroll limited insurance plans that do not have to provide health coverage for people with pre-existing conditions or other essential services such as maternity care and mental health coverage. As a result, these waivers have continually increased premiums and out-of-pocket costs for families across Michigan.

“We write to express our concern with the Administration’s repeated efforts to weaken protections for Americans with preexisting conditions and increase costs for millions, including through a new rule which allows for harmful waivers that weaken protections for vulnerable populations and exacerbate the damage already being caused by the expansion of short-term, limited-duration insurance, or “junk” plans,” wrote Peters and Stabenow. “We have heard from patients, physicians, independent experts, and other health care stakeholders that individuals with preexisting conditions are being negatively impacted by your Administration’s actions. More recently, we have seen the real world negative impact on individuals who have unknowingly enrolled in these deceptively marketed junk plans.”

You can read the Senators’ full letter below, or by clicking here:

The Honorable Alex Azar

Secretary

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

200 Independence Avenue, SW

Washington, DC 20201

The Honorable Seema Verma

Administrator

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

7500 Security Boulevard

Baltimore, MD 21244

Dear Secretary Azar and Administrator Verma:

We write to express our concern with the Administration’s repeated efforts to weaken protections for Americans with preexisting conditions and increase costs for millions, including through a new rule which allows for harmful waivers that weaken protections for vulnerable populations and exacerbate the damage already being caused by the expansion of short-term, limited-duration insurance, or “junk” plans. We have heard from patients, physicians, independent experts, and other health care stakeholders that individuals with preexisting conditions are being negatively impacted by your Administration’s actions. More recently, we have seen the real world negative impact on individuals who have unknowingly enrolled in these deceptively marketed junk plans.

We have heard directly from individuals with preexisting conditions and other Americans who are being negatively impacted by junk plans. Just this month, Bloomberg reported Arizona resident David Diaz unknowingly purchased a short-term health plan that did not cover preexisting conditions and placed ambiguous limits on emergency room care and other essential health care services. His family has been left with hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical debt. The Washington Post similarly reported on Jesse Lynn, who purchased a short-term health plan not realizing his back problem would be considered a preexisting condition. Jesse’s insurance company refused to cover his care – forcing his family into bankruptcy. No family should be forced into bankruptcy because of a preexisting medical condition or obscure coverage limits on care.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) established clear protections to prohibit insurance companies from discriminating against individuals with preexisting conditions, and ensure that more Americans have access to affordable and comprehensive health insurance. The junk plans your Administration has sought to expand and promote provide none of these protections and can legally increase premiums, exclude benefits, and deny coverage altogether to individuals with preexisting conditions. These plans place arbitrary coverage limits and many don’t cover essential health benefits, such as mental health care and maternity care.

The Administration’s rule on state waivers allows taxpayer dollars to go to these junk plans, accelerating the problems we are already seeing with junk plans and leaving fewer resources for people who purchase high quality insurance.

Additionally, the Administration’s new rule weakens coverage by allowing waivers that increase premiums and out-of-pocket costs for those who need health care most.

We have worked tirelessly to protect individuals with preexisting conditions from barriers to coverage. We urge you to do the same, including by limiting the proliferation of short-term junk plans and ensuring that consumers in every state are protected by federal consumer protections for people with preexisting conditions. Thank you and we look forward to your response.

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