In­sur­ers call Cruz plan “un­work­able”

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Alan Fram

WASH­ING­TON» 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, Rtexas, and lead­ers have in­cluded it in the over­all bill in hopes of win­ning votes from other con­gres­sional con­ser­va­tives. But mod­er­ates have wor­ried it will cause peo­ple 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 that had been ex­pected this week but will be de­layed af­ter Repub­li­can Sen. John Mccain’s of­fice an­nounced he will be re­cov­er­ing from surgery in Ari­zona af­ter hav­ing a blood clot re­moved from above his left eye.

The over­all mea­sure rep­re­sents the Se­nate GOP’S at­tempt to de­liver on the party’s prom­ise to re­peal Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s health care law, which they have 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 pre­ex­ist­ing 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, such as 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 pre-ex­ist­ing 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.”

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