Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) delivered remarks on the Senate floor urging her colleagues to support the No Junk Plans Act. This bill would rescind President Trump’s Executive Order allowing insurance companies to offer consumers up to three years of coverage via “junk plans” – short-term, limited-duration plans that don’t have to cover essential health benefits like prescription drugs, emergency room visits and maternity care.
I rise today to tell you about Carol Elewski from Reno, Nevada. Carol has chronic asthma, and she manages it with medications that can cost up to $400 a month.
In October of 2016, Carol had such a bad asthma attack that she was admitted to the hospital for ten days as doctors struggled to get her breathing under control.
Thankfully, today Carol’s health is stable. But because of her pre-existing condition and high prescription drug costs, she depends on the protections of the Affordable Care Act to keep her health care costs in check.
And this Administration keeps chipping away at those protections.
This President has weakened the ACA by expanding access to so-called junk plans. These short-term, limited-duration plans don’t cover essential services like prescription drugs, emergency room visits, and maternity care.
Today, I’m joining my colleagues to once again urge that we do away with these scam insurance policies.
These plans appeal to consumers because they are low cost—but they are also low benefit. Many people who purchase them don’t realize just how limited the coverage is —all those details are in the fine print of the policies, in dense legal jargon that’s nearly impossible to understand.
Consumers don’t know that the plans they’re signing up for can refuse to cover their pre-existing conditions. They may not realize that their coverage has annual or lifetime spending caps.
Take Carol, for instance. Let’s say she had signed up for a junk plan instead of an ACA-compliant plan—an easy mistake to make, since companies hide the differences between the two.
With a junk plan, Carol’s insurance could have refused to cover her health care costs because of her asthma. They could have denied payment for the emergency treatment she needed when she literally could not breathe. And they could have declined coverage for the essential medications she needs to keep the asthma in check.
Under these junk plans, women who get pregnant don’t get coverage for prenatal care or for delivering their babies. People with lifelong genetic conditions like cystic fibrosis can be denied coverage, as can those facing mental health issues.
What’s more, even if you don’t buy a junk health care plan, these plans’ very existence drives up your health care costs.
That’s because younger, healthier people are more likely to risk choosing a limited junk plan because those plans are cheaper.
That leaves the rest of the population—including many women and children—in a much more expensive insurance pool. Estimates say that junk plans could cost a family of four with an ACA plan over three thousand dollars in increased insurance premiums every year.
The No Junk Plans Act undoes the Administration’s order that allowed insurance companies to offer consumers up to three years of deceptive, skimpy coverage.
Under the No Junk Plans Act, customers can only use these short term plans for 90 days. The plans would work the way they were intended—as a bridge between coverage at one job and the next.
Americans have told us time and time again what they want their health care to do: cover pre-existing conditions; keep down prescription drug costs; include women’s health; cover mental health; pay for emergency room visits.
I’m going to continue to fight for what the American people want, and that’s the comprehensive coverage of the Affordable Care Act.
We can’t let the Administration succeed in doing an end-run around the ACA. The House has already passed legislation to do away with these flimsy and deceptive plans. The Senate must step up to do the same.