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Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) condemned the Senate’s failure to overturn President Trump’s expansion of junk insurance plans that can deny coverage to individuals with preexisting conditions and aren’t required to cover essential services like prescription drugs, emergency room visits, and maternity care. A measure introduced by Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) to reverse the expansion failed to pass by one vote.
“President Trump’s executive order allows insurance companies to trick consumers into signing up for these plans. Consumers think they are getting a good deal, only to find out as soon as they get sick that their medical bills are not covered,” said Cortez Masto in a speech on the Senate floor. “In failing to pass this resolution to restore protections against junk plans, the United States Senate has done a profound disservice to families and communities all across the country. I will continue fighting to restore protections against junk plans. And I encourage all of my colleagues to do the same.”
In her speech, Senator Cortez Masto highlighted the story of a Reno small business owner and how junk plans could have had devastating consequences for her and her child’s health.
I rise today to share the story of my friend Jesse Kleinedler.
Jesse and her husband own and operate one of Reno’s most successful small businesses—the Under the Rose Brewery. They are also the proud parents of a beautiful baby boy. Jesse, her family, and her business are doing great. But when I met Jesse last year, she told me that her path to this point in life had not been easy.
In 2012, Jesse left her job at a large firm—and the health insurance it provided—to pursue her dream of starting a brewery with her husband, Scott. About a year later, she learned that she was pregnant. During a routine check-up nine weeks before her due date, Jesse’s midwife advised her to see an OBGYN. Jesse didn’t look or feel sick, so she hesitated, but the mid-wife urged her to go see a specialist anyway.
Midway through her visit, the OBGYN became concerned that Jesse’s life was in danger. He diagnosed her with preeclampsia and rushed her to the hospital. Jesse’s son was born a few hours later via emergency C-section. The doctors who delivered her baby agreed that, had Jesse waited even 24 hours to see an OBGYN, both she and her son would have died.
In no uncertain terms, Jesse told me that she and her son owe their lives to the Affordable Care Act. Without the affordable coverage purchased on the Silver State Exchange, Jesse would not have been able to see a specialist. And she and her husband certainly would not have been able to afford the $1 million in medical costs Jesse’s son incurred over the course of a month-long stay in the NICU.
Jesse’s son is now a happy, thriving toddler, but he has a medical issue that interferes with his growth. Jesse and her husband Scott fear that President Trump’s efforts to roll back protections for people with pre-existing conditions will make it impossible for them to afford their son’s health insurance.
President Trump has not yet been able to get the support in Congress he needs to repeal protections for people with pre-existing conditions. But he has taken steps to circumvent the will of Congress and hack away at these protections, bit by bit.
In August, he signed an executive order expanding access to what are called “junk plans,” health insurance plans that don’t cover essential services like prescription drugs, emergency room visits, and maternity care.
These plans are designed for short-term use only and don’t include protections for people with pre-existing conditions.
That means that if you go to sign up for one of these plans, and you are a cancer survivor, or a pregnant woman, or a war veteran, you could be charged a higher rate.
It also means you could be forced to pay tens of thousands of dollars out of pocket for the care you receive in an emergency.
Junk plans come in all shapes and sizes, but none of them comply with consumer protections established by the Affordable Care Act.
The Kaiser Family Foundation looked at junk plans in 45 states and found that 43% did not include coverage for mental health services.
71% did not cover outpatient prescription drugs.
Junk plans appear cheaper than comprehensive health insurance plans—that is, until you read the fine print.
Junk plans have low monthly premiums and astronomical out of pocket costs. President Trump’s executive order allows insurance companies to trick consumers into signing up for these plans. Consumers think they are getting a good deal, only to find out as soon as they get sick that their medical bills are not covered.
The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACSCAN) says that junk plans “pose a serious threat to cancer patients’ ability to access quality, affordable health coverage.”
ACSCAN also said the Trump administration’s rule, “will likely leave older and sicker Americans in the individual insurance marketplace with few, if any, affordable health coverage choices,” and that, “patients living with serious conditions will be left paying more for the coverage they need if they can afford coverage at all.”
President Trump’s executive order to expand access to junk plans is not just an attack on our health care system. It’s an attempt to send us back to the days when families like Jesse’s couldn’t afford the health care they need.
Jesse told me she owes her life to the health insurance she purchased through the ACA.
Where would Jesse and her family be without it?
What if she had not been able to afford a comprehensive plan?
What if she had purchased a junk plan instead?
1.2 million Nevadans live with a pre-existing condition. That’s nearly one in two.
That number includes nearly 159,000 children and nearly 270,000 people nearing retirement.
The junk plans rule directly threatens their health care.
Heather Korbulic, Executive Director of the Silver State Health Exchange, summed up the risk that junk plans pose.
She said, “[Junk plans] are designed to basically take your preexisting condition and charge you more or tell you that you can’t be on those plans at all.”
She continued, “If they find that you’ve not disclosed a pre-existing medical condition…then you’re left high and dry with no insurance.”
I don’t want to go back to a world where Nevadans with pre-existing conditions can’t get the care they need, or where insurance companies aren’t required to cover basic services like maternity care.
I was a proud co-sponsor of Senator Tammy Baldwin’s resolution to overturn President Trump’s executive order.
In failing to pass this resolution, the United States Senate has done a profound disservice to families and communities all across the country.
I will continue fighting to restore protections against junk plans. And I encourage all of my colleagues to do the same.