Sen. Shaheen targets ‘junk’ health plans
By Alex LaCasse
Posted Feb 22, 2019 at 5:39 PM
Updated Feb 26, 2019 at 4:42 PM
EXETER -- U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen is pushing legislation to protect people from being led into purchasing what she calls “junk” health-care plans.
Shaheen, D-N.H., held a meeting with a group of public health officials at Exeter Hospital Friday to discuss the state of health care delivery, especially to more vulnerable populations.
The senator said the Protect Americans with Pre-existing Conditions Act is intended to block the Trump administration from using federal tax credits to promote enrollment in certain health care plans, which she referred to as “junk” plans because they may leave people with pre- existing conditions vulnerable to increased costs because their coverage is inadequate.
The meeting was attended by representatives from organizations, such as Exeter Hospital, ABLE NH, Planned Parenthood, the American Heart Association, National Alliance on Mental Illness NH, Granite State Diabetes Educators and the New Hampshire Hospital Association.
“There has been what I believe to be a deliberate sabotage of the health care law in a way that makes it harder for people to get health care and it makes it more costly,” Shaheen said. ”(This legislation) prevents those junk plans from allowing consumers to access those subsidies that are available to people overall for their health insurance. These plans ... don’t give people the kind of coverage they think they’re getting when they enroll.”
Mark Whitney, Exeter Hospital’s vice president of strategic planning, said in his hospital’s last three-year community needs assessment cycle the No. 1 issue patients reported was despite having health insurance, they could not afford the co-payments the plan dictates. He said individuals in lower-socioeconomic positions were most affected.
Dr. Darren Guy, Exeter Hospital’s medical director of public health, said the hospital is working to identify the patients with conditions requiring higher levels of care and create “multi-disciplinary” care teams. He said they are intended to address the broader scope of a patient’s health, not just his or her immediate medical issue in front of them.
“Five percent of our population drives 50 percent of the cost, and about 20 percent drives 80 percent of the cost,” Guy said. “We know folks who may have one chronic condition likely have many others. To really achieve good health outcomes, you need to address not just the clinical issues but the psycho-social issues as well.”
Whitney said the so-called junk plans could risk throwing off the entire balance of the health care system.
“If we actually create a situation where we create an incentive for people to self-judge themselves to not need those coverages and pick up the less expensive ones; what’s going to happen to the cost of insurance for everybody else? It’s a recipe for disaster,” Whitney said. “It was always the vision of the (Affordable Care Act), whether you liked it or not, it was based on the idea of trying to create a balance in the pool of folks being insured. That balance always was a mix of healthy folks and folks who are compromised in some way.”