|"Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast"
|"The liberal soul shall be made fat, and he that watereth, shall be watered also himself."
-- Proverbs 11:25
A proposed tax on high-cost, or “Cadillac,” health insurance plans has touched off a fierce clash between the Senate and the House as they wrestle over how to pay for legislation that would provide health benefits to millions of uninsured Americans.
Under the Finance Committee bill, the tax would be imposed beginning in 2013 on employer- sponsored health plans with total premiums exceeding $8,000 for individuals and $21,000 for families, regardless of whether the coverage was paid for by the employer, the individual or both. The tax would be paid by insurers, who would be expected to pass along the cost to customers.
Critics say that would mean an increase in premiums or in out-of-pocket expenses for employees, raising medical costs for individuals and families.
Supporters say the more likely prospect is that employers would bargain-hunt or take other steps to avoid the tax, putting pressure on insurers to offer cheaper coverage and slowing the rise in medical costs for everyone.
In early 2001, seven years after Doug had successfully battled bone cancer, the couple needed new health insurance. So they were all ears when a representative from a group called the National Association for the Self-Employed knocked on the door of Doug's boat repair business in Marina del Rey, Calif. The rep offered what sounded like a great deal: For just $434 a month, MEGA Life & Health Insurance Co. would cover them both. The policy even carried a chemotherapy rider in case Doug's cancer came back.
But when the cancer did return later that year, they received a shock: A few months after Doug started chemotherapy, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center refused to treat him anymore, saying he had already used up the MEGA coverage. The problem: It capped chemo coverage at $1,000 a day, even though Doug's cost up to $18,000 -- fine print Dana says they were never told about. The doctor got Doug transferred to another hospital. But after he died in October, 2002, at the age of 48, Dana was stuck with almost $500,000 in medical bills that MEGA refused to cover, and now lives on her boat to save money on rent.
Across the country, insurers are pitching a kaleidoscope of plans that collect millions in premiums and fees but don't pay all claims or serve up shabby service. This summer alone, Montana has issued 15 cease-and-desist orders against medical discount plans hawking coverage for $89.95 a month, no questions asked. In Florida, officials have shut down 200 fake insurance operators in the past two years. In February, the General Accounting Office found that 144 unlicensed health insurers covering 200,000 people have left $252 million in unpaid medical claims in recent years. Overall, health-care fraud cost $54 billion in 2003 and is growing by at least 3% a year, according to the National Healthcare Anti-Fraud Assn., a nonprofit group in Washington, D.C.
Labels: health care