HIGHTOWER: The Fraud of 'Portable' Health Insurance

How many legs does a dog have if you call its tail a leg? Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn't make it one.Likewise, calling a law "health-care reform" doesn't mean it really is. Consider the widely-ballyhooed, 1996 "Portable Health Insurance" law. Republicans as well as Democrats hailed it back then as the answer for millions of Americans who, when they lose their jobs, also lose their company-provided insurance. Since so many of these downsized folks are in their forties and fifties they have various ailments, and insurance companies were coldly refusing to sell individual policies to them. So in stepped Bill Clinton and the Congress to say that insurance companies canNOT deny coverage to downsized workers. And that was that.Except it didn't work.The companies are waaay too sneaky and the law was waaay too feeble. The biggest loophole built into the law is that while insurance companies must make a policy available to you, they don't have to make the policy affordable. So they didn't. These "portable" policies can cost you $10,000 or $15,000 or more -- not terribly attractive to anyone, much less people who've just lost their job.And if that's not tricky enough, try this: if you don't buy your individual policy within 63 days of losing your company's group coverage, tough luck -- they don't have to sell to you at any price. Also, they can specifically design a policy to exclude coverage of any particular illness or medicine -- like the very illness you have or medicine you need.This is Jim Hightower saying ... what we have here is Washington cynicism at its worst -- the politicians of both parties get to take credit in an election year for dealing with a real problem people face, yet they also please their insurance company campaign contributors by putting escape clauses for them in the law, and by the time the people learn about the fraud, the politicians are back in office.Source: "High rates hobble law to guarantee health insurance" by Robert Pear. New York Times: March 17, 1998.


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