Stabenow report slams Trump, GOP over ‘junk’ health plans that don’t cover basic services

By: - November 25, 2019 2:55 pm

President Donald J. Trump speaks with reporters after disembarking Air Force One Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019 at Joint Base Andrews, Md. | Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead via Flickr Public Domain

U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Lansing) has released a report on Republican efforts to limit access to public health care and push short-term insurance plans, commonly referred to as “junk” plans.

Non-comprehensive or “junk” insurance plans are inexpensive options that are not required to offer basic benefits, such as pre-existing conditions, maternity care or behavioral health.

U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow |Andrew Roth

“Since his first day in office, President Trump has been undermining health care for millions of Americans,” Stabenow said in a Senate Democrats press release Friday. “This open enrollment season, the Administration continues to put millions of Americans’ health care at risk by promoting junk insurance plans that do not cover pre-existing conditions. American families deserve health care that will be there for them when they need it.”

Stabenow and U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Twp.) voted in October to overturn the policy that allowed for “junk” insurance plans and other changes to Obama-era ACA efforts. The vote failed in the GOP-led Senate with a by a vote of 43-52.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA), former President Barack Obama’s signature achievement, required health insurance plans to cover 10 essential health benefits, including pre-existing conditions, maternity care, emergency room care, hospitalization and prescription drugs. However, the Trump administration has loosened regulations and is currently backing a lawsuit that would kill the ACA. 

Open enrollment for the ACA began on Nov. 1.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) uses federal funding to promote private insurance brokers whose consumers are looking for ACA-compliant plans. According to Stabenow’s report, these brokers receive commissions up to four times higher for enrolling customers in “junk” health insurance plans.

Since 2016, the Trump administration has cut funding for nonprofit health care navigator groups by 84%. These groups provide outreach, education and enrollment assistance to consumers eligible for Medicaid coverage.

In Michigan, funding for navigator groups was cut by 87% since 2016, according to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation, a San Francisco-based nonprofit focused on national health issues. In 2019, the state was granted $289,452 to fund these services, which is down from more than $2 million in 2016.

Additionally, the administration removed a rule that required there be at least two local navigator groups to provide services. This policy change left many areas across the country, and in Michigan, without any assistance.

Only six Michigan counties have federally funded navigator groups: Bay, Saginaw, Genesee, Oakland, Macomb and Wayne. 

Stabenow also called out Trump for cutting open enrollment advertising in 2017 by 90%, which stopped an estimated 1.1 million people from getting health coverage that year.

The number of people signed up for health insurance through open enrollment has decreased every year Trump has been in office. According to Stabenow’s report, the numbers for the current enrollment season are down 20% compared to this time last year. 

When the ACA went into effect in 2014, the open enrollment period lasted for 185 days. This year, the open enrollment period is 45 days long. 

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Allison R. Donahue
Allison R. Donahue

Allison R. Donahue covers education, women's issues and LGBTQ issues. Previously, she was a suburbs reporter at the St. Cloud Times in St. Cloud, Minn., covering local education and government. As a graduate of Grand Valley State University, she has previous experience as a freelance researcher for USA Today and an intern with WOOD TV-8. When she is away from her desk, she spends her time going to concerts, comedy shows or getting lost on hikes in different places around the world.