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Thursday
Feb222018

“Junk” health plan won’t cover what women need!

Trump proposes to expand use of “junk” health plans
 


This week, the Trump administration rolled out yet another proposed rule designed to sabotage the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and push younger, healthier people into unregulated “junk” insurance. This is just the latest step in a long line of steps to sabotage the ACA and drive up the costs of insurance for women, families and anyone with a pre-existing condition.
 
Under current law, short-term health insurance plans intended to cover very short gaps in coverage don’t have to comply with the ACA’s consumer protections. But under Obama-era regulations, they are limited to just three months. Under the Trump proposal, these short-term “junk” plans could last 364 days.
 
Much like the Trumpcare proposals pushed by the GOP Congress last year, these plans would not be required to cover essential health benefits like maternity care, prescription drugs or mental health care. They could discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions, charge limitless out-of-pocket expenses and reinstate annual and lifetime coverage caps.  Unlike ACA-compliance policies, these “junk” plans would not be required to spend a minimum percentage of our premiums on actually providing health care, instead of on CEO salaries or advertising.
 
It's particularly disturbing that the administration is pushing these plans—which could put affordable mental health care out of reach for hundreds of thousands of families—even as the White House is explaining away the epidemic of gun violence as a mental health problem. 
 
With lower monthly premiums, “junk” plans would appeal to younger, healthier people who don’t expect to get sick, have an accident, or need much insurance throughout the year. Referencing an earlier, similar proposal, insurance companies warned, “This would allow the new plans to ‘cherry pick’ only healthy people from the existing market, making coverage unaffordable for the millions of people who need or want comprehensive coverage, including, for example, coverage for prescription drugs and mental health services. … In fact, it creates two systems of insurance for healthy and sick people.”
 
Strong sign-ups for ACA coverage this year despite the GOP’s sabotage efforts suggest that ACA markets will be protected against a “death spiral” for low- and moderate-income households whose premiums are subsidized by the government. But for middle-income households who don’t qualify for financial help, the combined impact of repealing the individual mandate and promoting non-compliant “junk” plans could set up a “death spiral” in comprehensive coverage.
 
Some younger and healthier people would opt for cheaper, junk plans making the market for comprehensive coverage slightly older and sicker. That would drive up premiums which would price out the next tier of healthy people, including those who wanted comprehensive coverage but could no longer afford it. That, in turn, could leave ACA markets as a de facto high risk pool with only the very sickest middle class households still trying to purchase comprehensive coverage.
 
Texas Summit on the Black Church and Reproductive Justice
 
The Afiya Center (RWV’s Dallas-based regional coordinator, which is led by Marsha Jones), hosted its annual Texas Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Summit last week. This year’s theme was “The Black Church’s Response to Reproductive Justice.”

“The church has historically played a pivotal role in the lives of Black women and the Black community. We love the Black church,” said Deneen Robinson, Program Director, The Afiya Center.  “We also know that the Black church has been absent in the work of reproductive justice. The Black church by and large has fallen down on the needs of women, except as it relates to their presence in the lives of men, in part because of the long-held role of patriarchy, misogyny and sexism. We believe it is, in part, because they see reproductive justice as advocating solely for abortion rights. We conducted this meeting to share the full breadth of reproductive justice."

The Summit gathered faith leaders, layfolk and activists for engaging plenaries, break-out sessions and panel discussions on Faith Based Reproductive Justice. Faith leaders speaking at the Summit included Bishop Yvette Flunder, who is Senior Pastor of the City of Refuge United Church of Christ and Presiding Bishop of The Fellowship of Affirming Ministries; Toni Bond Leonard, a long-time reproductive justice advocate who is completing her doctorate in religion, ethics and society at Claremont School of Theology; and Kentina Washington-Leapheart, a minister who is Director of Programs for Reproductive Justice and Sexuality Education at the Religious Institute.

Among those representing the medical community was Dr. Willie J. Parker, who considers his practice as an abortion provider to be part of his Christian calling, as he explained in his recent book, Life’s Work: A Moral Argument for Choice.  Dr. Joia Creer-Perry, an ob-gyn who is founder of the National Birth Equity Collaborative, screened the film “Death by Delivery.” Other speakers included Cherisse Scott, founder of RWV’s Tennessee regional coordinator, SisterReach.
 
“We wanted to provide an environment where Pastors, church leaders, laity, community providers and allies could share space and learn from each other,” explained Deneen Robinson. “We also wanted to hold the church accountable for its absence in the lives of Black women, who in most cases are the principal supporters of our ministries. As a faith leader, I want to make sure that women have faith communities that are concerned about their lives enough to show up for them not just in word but deed. Faith leaders have to find a way to show compassion for those they are called to serve.“

A key takeaway from the Summit will be creating a coalition that will remain engaged to assist The Afiya Center in creating a moral agenda for the next Texas state legislative session. Center leaders are also planning have a follow-up meeting in the fall to deal with the unspoken sexual trauma that sits in the Black communities of faith.

Making Contraceptive Coverage More Transparent in Maryland
 
Our Maryland-based regional coordinator, Consumer Health First, is supporting SB 744 / HB 780, a bill that would require insurers to develop and publicize a document with contraceptive coverage information for each of their plans. The document would be required to list all of the contraceptive drugs and devices covered by the plan (brand name and generic), as well as the surgical contraceptive methods that the plan covers (such as sterilizations). It would also include information about cost-sharing requirements and medical management for each covered contraceptive drug or device. This information would be published on the insurer’s public website.
 
Consumer Health First submitted testimony in support of the bill, which you can read here. The bill would build on Maryland’s 2016 Contraceptive Equity Act, which went into effect at the beginning of this year, by ensuring that women have accurate, comprehensive and easy-to-access information about their contraceptive coverage options.

 

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