Washington, D.C. — Dana Christensen, a widow from Playa Del Rey California, joined Senator Kennedy (D, MA), Senator Durbin (D, IL), and Senator Schumer (D, NY) today at a press conference in Russell Park to oppose legislation that would expand the same type of junk health insurance that left her with $450,000 in unpaid medical bills when her husband died of cancer.
The debate on the bill, S. 1955 by Senator Michael Enzi of Wyoming, began today. A similar bill has already passed the House of Representatives.
“If Senator Enzi’s bill becomes law, Americans might have insurance but they won’t be covered,” said Dana Christensen. “When my husband Doug got sick with bone cancer, we realized the coverage we thought we had wasn’t there. In the end, our policy paid less than 18% of Doug’s medical bills and I was left nearly half a million dollars in debt. Insurance isn’t insurance if it doesn’t protect us from financial disaster or provide basic coverage when we are sick.”
Dana Christensen and her husband Doug bought an ‘association health plan’ marketed by the National Association for the Self Employed after being assured that the policy would cover Doug’s chemotherapy if his bone cancer recurred. Dana and Doug’s plan paid only $200 a day for hospital costs and $1,000 a day for chemotherapy even though actual costs were twenty times higher. When Doug passed away, Dana was left with $450,000 in unpaid medical bills.
Dana Christensen successfully sued her health insurer under state fraud laws because her association health plan misrepresented the extent to which benefits were covered. The Christensens’ insurance company, Mega Life and Health, is currently the subject of half a dozen civil lawsuits in state courts, as well as a multi-state investigation into their business practices. Under S. 1955, individuals like Dana Christensen could not hold insurers accountable in state court and Mega would be protected from paying damages to patients they defraud. Click here for more information.
On Friday, the national PBS program “NOW” debuted an exposé on S. 1955.
View a resource page for the NOW program, “Payment Due,” complete with a photo essay, “Barely Covered,” and an analysis of the bill.
Read a transcript of the program.
Watch the NOW program.
Under S. 1955, insurers could bypass state health insurance regulation and consumer protections to price employers and families out of their current health plans and replace them with inferior policies. Insurance companies would be allowed to sell this junk insurance to individuals and employers at higher rates based on gender, age and where they live, even though this type of discrimination is currently illegal in many states.
Senator Enzi is expected to introduce an amended version of his bill today.
“This bill’s basic premise is to allow insurers to ignore patient protections, state laws, courts and regulators. Any amendments to the bill will still result in a net loss to patients,” said Jerry Flanagan of the Foundation for Taxpayers and Consumer Rights (FTCR). “You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.”
“This attack on states’ rights puts millions of consumers, many of whom are business owners and self-employed, at risk in a move that amounts to national deregulation of health care,” according to FTCR and Public Citizen. “Insurance companies would be allowed to sell this junk insurance to individuals and employers at higher rates based on gender, age and where they live, even though this type of discrimination is currently illegal in many states.”
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The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR) is California’s leading nonpartisan consumer advocacy organization. For more information, visit us on the web at: http://www.ConsumerWatchdog.org