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Federal Actions Leave in Place a Flawed Health Insurance System

July 10, 2023

Summary: The White House announced several actions to improve health care financial protections for consumers. Left in place is a fragmented and dysfunctional health insurance system which imposes massive burdens on consumers. Time for single payer!

President Biden Announces New Actions to Lower Health Care Costs and Protect Consumers from Scam Insurance Plans and Junk Fees
The White House
July 7, 2023

  • The Biden-Harris Administration is cracking down on junk insurance. New proposed rules would close loopholes that the previous administration took advantage of that allow companies to offer misleading insurance products that can discriminate based on pre-existing conditions and trick consumers into buying products that provide little or no coverage when they need it most. These plans leave families surprised by thousands of dollars in medical expenses when they actually use health care services like a surgery. If finalized, the rule would limit so-called “short-term” plans to truly short time periods, close loopholes made worse by the previous administration, and establish a clear disclosure for consumers of the limits of these plans.
  • The Administration is releasing important guidance on rules against surprise medical billing. Biden-Harris Administration rules are already preventing as many as 1 million surprise medical bills every month. New guidance will help stop providers from gaming the system by evading the surprise billing rules with creative contractual loopholes that still leave consumers with unexpected costs.
  • The Administration is announcing new steps to protect consumers from unfair medical debt. For the first time in history, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, HHS, and Treasury are collaborating to explore whether health care provider and third-party efforts to encourage consumers to sign up for medical credit cards and loans are operating outside of existing consumer protections and breaking the law. Medical credit cards and loans often lead to higher costs without consumers fully understanding the risks.
  • The Department of Health and Human Services is releasing a new report showing that nearly 19 million seniors and other Part D beneficiaries are projected to save $400 per year on prescription drugs when President Biden’s $2,000 out-of-pocket cap goes into effect. It’s also releasing state by state data that demonstrates how seniors across the country are helped by just one element of the President’s robust agenda to lower prescription drug prices.

Comment by: Don McCanne & Jim Kahn

Everyone knows that we have very serious problems with our health care system. We spend the most per capita of any nation, yet leave millions without adequate health care coverage or with any health care coverage at all, resulting in rampant financial hardship and even personal bankruptcy. We know that we can readily fix this by enacting and implementing Medicare for All – a single payer, publicly financed and publicly administered health care financing system.

Yet what reform does the current administration in Washington offer us? They would “crack down” on short-term junk insurance, but nevertheless leave it in place. They would reduce gaming of surprise out-of-network billing, while leaving in place restrictive provider networks and uncovered services. They would rein in abusive medical credit practices, while leaving in place the massive deductibles and cost-sharing (and uninsurance) that result in nearly half of adults having medical debt and hundreds of thousands of bankruptcies annually. They would save Medicare beneficiaries a few hundred dollars in drug costs, while leaving in place lack of and incomplete drug coverage for tens of millions.

It’s time to stop “leaving in place” our fundamental health insurance problems. Medicare for All legislation is sitting in the House and the Senate waiting for action.

My gosh. Talk about insensitivity. Those horrible problems are staring us in the face, and they are merely going to spin their wheels in minor rule-making.

Let’s get real. Single payer! Now!

About the Commentator, Jim Kahn

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Jim (James G.) Kahn, MD, MPH (editor) is an Emeritus Professor of Health Policy, Epidemiology, and Global Health at the University of California, San Francisco. His work focuses on the cost and effectiveness of prevention and treatment interventions in low and middle income countries, and on single payer economics in the U.S. He has studied, advocated, and educated on single payer since the 1994 campaign for Prop 186 in California, including two years as chair of Physicians for a National Health Program California.

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