Chaps my hide

It’s really really annoying to me when people who talk about the “affordabilty” of insurance only fixate on the premium prices.

And it’s especially offensive when we have a person travel from Los Angeles to Sacramento to testify about junk insurance plans — after having incurred $40,000 costs — be told that “at least you had insurance.”

As part of an illustration for why we need SB1522 (Steinberg) to organize the individual health insurance market and weed out junk insurance plans, we brought up someone who actually had one of these hospital-only junk insurance plans — Susan Braig, a former art teacher.

Susan was a conscientious consumer with a modest income. Approaching age 50, she decided she needed to get health insurance after having dropped it briefly in the late-90s during the huge run-up in premium prices. After carefully researching the balance of premium and benefits, she selected the coverage she could afford — hospital-only, catastrophic coverage through Blue Cross — the Basic PPO 1000. This has a $1,000 deductible with a $3,500 maximum out-of-pocket, and did not cover doctors visits. After the deductible, 80% of big-ticket services (like surgeries, hospitalizations, etc.) would be covered.

But, Susan rationalized, as many in her predicament might, that she’s healthy, never used her insurance before, and could afford the doctor’s visits here and there, but that $3,500 was a modest amount to pay if a catastrophic illness befell her.

Well — shortly after purchasing the policy, she was diagnosed with breast cancer — and over two years, her credit card debt increased from $5,000 to $45,000.

None of the series of doctors visits, prescription drugs, ultrasounds and lab tests were — or will be — covered by Basic PPO 1000. What’s worse, it also did NOT count toward her deductible $1,000 deductible.

“Even my chemotherapy treatments were considered “doctor visits” unless I had the identical treatments an hour from home in a hospital.”

Functionally, Susan is uninsured. This experience has left Susan wondering — “I’m paying insurance premiums for WHAT?”

So it continues to gall me that the industry makes arguments that the “cost” of insurance will go up if we weed out plans like Susan’s. Up from what? Isn’t $40,000 over two years enough already?

Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.

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