The Los Angeles Times: Editorial – California should fight the good fight against bad health insurance policies

May 25, 2018
By THE TIMES EDITORIAL BOARD

This one should be a no-brainer: California lawmakers are considering a bill that would ban so-called junk health insurance policies — short-term plans that do not comply with the consumer protections set out in Obamacare. These cheap plans typically offer no protection against the risk of bankrupting medical bills; instead, they cover just a limited number of doctor visits and days in the hospital, with glaring gaps in coverage, huge out-of-pocket costs and comparatively low caps on total benefits.

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Analysts say that Trump's proposal, like other steps the administration has taken, would leave fewer healthy people buying policies through the state Obamacare exchanges. Combine that with the end of the mandate to buy insurance and the result would be an average premium increase of 18%, the Urban Institute estimated. In other words, opening the door wider to cheap junk plans would lead to sharp increases in the premiums paid by millions of Americans. And because the vast majority of the people buying insurance on the Obamacare exchanges are subsidized, much of the cost increase would be borne by federal taxpayers.

That's a policy worth resisting. Cheap junk plans are often just that — cheap junk. To protect Californians from being lured away from costlier plans that provide real protection, lawmakers should pass SB 910.

In another blow to Obamacare's efforts to expand insurance coverage, the Trump administration has also invited states to impose work requirements on low-income and disabled individuals receiving Medicaid. It's a solution in search of a problem — most Medicaid recipients who are capable of working already do, so the main effects of the change would be to raise costs and drive eligible people off the rolls. And the less access that people with health problems have to treatment, the more likely they'll be unable to work. Talk about self-defeating.

That's why Hernandez has offered another bill, SB 1108, that would bar the state from going down that road. It seems like a symbolic gesture — it's hard to imagine this state adding work requirements to Medi-Cal. Nevertheless, lawmakers should pass it to show that they recognize a counterproductive federal initiative when they see one.

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