Jim covered Congress and The White House during the George W. Bush administration for The Washington Times, and worked as a reporter, editorial writer and columnist for newspapers in Pennsylvania, Virginia, and California. He has appeared on the Fox News Channel, CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, and many local and national talk radio shows to talk politics and policy.
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Heartland Institute Policy Advisor Merrill Matthews, who is resident scholar with the Institute for Policy Innovation, posted a PolicyByte the other day titled “Mandate Revolt: Health Insurers Offering Coverage for Those Who Refuse Obamacare.”
Some health insurers are offering health plans that do not meet Obamacare standards, apparently because they believe there is an opportunity to provide at least some coverage to millions of Americans who refuse to buy an Obamacare plan.
Some pundits and the media have stated or implied that it is illegal for health insurers to sell coverage that does not meet the Affordable Care Act’s “essential benefits” (i.e., things it must cover).
It’s not illegal; insurers are free to sell non-qualified coverage, subject to state insurance department approval.
However, a person buying non-qualified coverage would still have to pay the penalty (or tax) for not having the kind of coverage President Obama approves of—what he likes to call “substandard coverage,” but which many others call affordable.
Assurant is one of the largest insurers for the individual (i.e., non-group) market. It has long offered limited policies, and still does, even with Obamacare’s mandate to have qualified coverage breathing down its neck. It’s Health Access fixed-indemnity product—which means it pays a fixed amount of money rather than a percentage of the medical bill—costs $94, $159 or $249 a month for a 50-year-old male, depending on the coverage options a person chooses.
But Assurant isn’t the only one. I am told that United Healthcare has developed a limited-benefit plan and is now working to get it approved in several states. As is Texas-based American National.
A Heartland friend who got word of this emailed to say he is not all that encouraged by this development. Assurant is a small player that only offers insurance to individuals, and Big Insurance is fully captured by the Obama administration and won’t get out of line lest it risk retaliation. Assurant may get away with this for a while, my correspondent wrote, “but they are just one ‘interum final regulation’ from extinction.”
Aren’t we all “just one interim final regulation” from extinction in the Age of Obama, where the law is what he says it is at any given day? John Podesta, Clinton’s newest White House “fixer,” will certainly be encouraging even more “law” by decree.
I’m sure my correspondent is right that too much of the health insurance industry is captured and won’t dare defy its new master. But when governments get this deep into the business of dictating arbirtary “new economic realities,” genuine free-market activity has a way of emerging to meet the needs and desires of the people. Maybe if more Assurants pop up, the “captured” health insurers will gain the courage to wriggle free.
Consierge medicine, and full-on black-market health services, will be all the buzz in 2014 and beyond. We should all applaud this emerging “gray market” — a quasi-legal way to opt-out of this mess. (And at least Assurant is complying with the law, which is more than can be said for Obama and Sebelius.)
I’d certainly pay the fine plus the premiums of a health plan that met my needs if it was cheaper, and it undoubtedly would be. Hell, I’d find a doctor who would take chickens and rhubarb pie as payment before I’ll submit to the Obamacare Disaster.