Shaheen, Baldwin and Warner Call Out Trump Administration for Giving Third Party Websites Free Rein to Push Consumers into Junk Health Insurance PlansOctober 23, 2019
**Letter to HHS Secretary and CMS Administrator Highlights Agencies Promoting Third-Party Health Care Brokers Which Steer Individuals Towards Junk Plans For High Commission Payments**
(Washington, DC) – Today, U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Mark Warner (D-VA) sent a letter urging Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma to do more to prevent third-party web brokers from steering individuals towards junk health insurance plans.
On the HealthCare.gov website, CMS includes a link that directs customers towards third-party web broker sites for health care enrollment. The junk plans offered by these brokers are not Affordable Care Act (ACA)-compliant and do not have to offer the protections that the ACA mandates, including protections for people with pre-existing conditions, such as cancer, diabetes and asthma, or coverage for essential health benefits, including maternity care, substance use disorder treatment and prescription medications. Web brokers have a significant financial incentive to enroll individuals in these deficient plans, and are often able to earn commissions up to four times higher than they would earn enrolling customers in ACA-compliant plans.
Alongside the aforementioned concerns, the Senators highlighted the alarming consequences brought about by the lack of federal oversight of brokers in their letter. “While federal rules prohibit brokers from displaying junk plans side-by-side with ACA-compliant qualified health plans (QHP), brokers can structure their webpages in ways that steer consumers toward higher-commission products, like junk plans,” wrote the Senators. “Equally concerning, web brokers’ online screening tools can fail to identify instances where a customer is eligible for Medicaid. In other instances, the screening tools may identify potential Medicaid eligibility, but the web broker platform may continue to push a customer to purchase a junk plan.”
The Senators concluded, “An effective and well-functioning health insurance market is only possible if consumers are provided transparent information regarding the scope and cost of coverage available, the tax credits available to consumers to offset premiums for comprehensive health plans and the incentives that brokers have for selling various products. Availability of this transparent information is particularly critical in light of your agency’s decision to reduce funding for Health Insurance Marketplace advertising, outreach and education efforts by approximately 90 percent compared to 2016 levels. Your regulatory oversight in this area is vitally important to achieving this effective insurance market. We urge you to take this oversight responsibility seriously.”
The letter can be read in full here.
Shaheen has led efforts in the Senate against the Trump administration’s push to expand junk plans. Shaheen has cosponsored and introduced the No Junk Plans Act and the Protecting Americans with Pre-existing Conditions Act, legislation that would overturn President Trump’s expansion of junk plans that do not have to protect health care coverage for Granite Staters and Americans with pre-existing conditions. Last year, Shaheen voted to overturn the Trump administration’s expansion of junk plans and helped lead a group of 40 Senators in calling for the Trump administration to withdraw regulatory changes making it easier for states to promote junk plans and use taxpayer dollars to subsidize junk plans. In April, Shaheen also led all 47 Senate Democrats on a Senate resolution that would reverse the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) recent decision to side with U.S. District Court Judge Reed O’Connor’s ruling to strike down the ACA’s health care protections that are enjoyed by millions of Americans. Shaheen has also led efforts to restore funding for Health Insurance Marketplace Open Enrollment advertising and outreach activities that the Trump Administration cut by 90 percent in 2017.
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