So Senator John McCain—a near-certain “yes” vote on the so-called Republican “Health Care” Plan being dropped furtively in mail slots and shoved under locked doorways in the U.S. Senate buildings this week—has a blood clot above his eye and needs surgery. As a result, the Republican plan is “on hold” until after McCain goes under the knife and recovers so he can cast his vote.
Well a blood clot anywhere in the skull is serious business. I know, I had one. So sure, get Senator McCain to a hospital, stat.
But let’s pretend for a minute that it wasn’t Senator John McCain with his gold-plated Senate health care privileges earned through decades of marketing himself like a used car salesman everywhere from Fox News to Meet the Press. Let’s pretend it wasn’t someone already covered by Medicare with a multimillionaire wife. Let’s pretend instead it was John Q. McCain, an HVAC repairman working construction in 120-degree Phoenix.
Let’s say John Q. McCain suddenly got a blood clot above his eye. Just woke up one day feeling a little dizzy, and having trouble seeing. But unlike Senator John McCain, Mr. John Q. McCain, as a self-employed independent contractor, has to buy his health insurance himself. And when you take into account his car payment, his mortgage and utility bills, what the Republican Party replaced Obamacare with last year was just too expensive for John Q. McCain to make ends meet.
One night, a few months earlier, John Q. McCain was sitting on his couch when he saw a commercial for something he’d never seen before—affordable insurance from Blue Cross for only a few dollars a month. Well that sounded great—and it was Blue Cross, after all. There was some fine print at the bottom of the screen that John had to squint to try to read, but it took so damn long and it disappeared after a few seconds.
So John Q. McCain called the 800 number and in less than three days he was “covered.”
As Senate Republican leaders struggle to secure enough votes to repeal and replace the health law, the centerpiece of their effort to win conservative support is a provision that would allow insurers to sell such bare-bones plans again. The new version of the bill released on Thursday incorporates an idea from Senator Ted Cruz of Texas that would permit insurers to market all types of plans as long as they offer ones that comply with Affordable Care Act standards. The measure would also allow companies to take into account people’s health status in determining whether to insure them and at what price.
State insurance regulators say the proposal harks back to the days when insurance companies, even household names like Aetna and Blue Cross, sold policies so skimpy they could hardly be called coverage at all. Derided as “junk insurance,” the plans had very low premiums but often came with five-figure deductibles. Many failed to pay for medical care that is now deemed essential.
So when John Q. McCain went to the ER after he started experiencing his symptoms, he was immediately admitted to the hospital. He needed repeat MRI’s just to determine that the clot existed. It wasn’t treatable without surgery, so he ended up staying in a hospital for a week. And for the record, the doctors did a great job.
His final bills totaled about $250,000 after all the follow-up doctors appointments. Then the bills started coming in like crazy. And that’s when he found out that his “insurance” wouldn’t pay.
John Q. McCain isn’t a real person, of course. The real people who’ve experienced the horror of medical bankruptcy as a result of buying “junk insurance” are profiled in the New York Times article linked above:
Ned Scott, 34, who lives in Tucson, said the health plan he had before the Affordable Care Act left him with $40,000 to $50,000 in unpaid medical bills after he learned he had testicular cancer when he was in his late 20s.
“I thought it would cover things,” Mr. Scott said. But once he needed it, he learned the plan limited what it paid for outpatient care to $2,000 a year, and all of his treatment, from chemotherapy to CT scans, seemed to fall in that category.
“[O]ne case involv[ed] a man, Doug Christensen, who bought a policy from Mega Life and Health Insurance, which was the subject of numerous lawsuits and state regulatory actions. Mr. Christensen, who previously had bone cancer, was assured by the insurance agent selling the policy that he would have adequate coverage if the cancer returned. But the plan limited payments toward chemotherapy to just $1,000 a day of treatment when the actual cost was sometimes 10 times that amount. Mr. Christensen was left with nearly $500,000 in unpaid medical bills.
“Junk insurance” insurance policies are often attractive to younger people who generally have fewer medical problems and don’t have enough life experience to anticipate or understand the huge costs of medical care in this country. So they snap up these “policies,” which are little more than marketing scams that enrich the health insurance industry. It’s only after they experience a major medical problem—like Senator John McCain’s blood clot, for example—that they realize what they’ve purchased is worthless.
The Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) did away with these garbage policies, forcing insurers to cover most critical medical services, including hospitalization, prescription medication, doctor visits, mental health and substance abuse treatment, and physical therapy to even qualify their plans as “insurance.” The Republican Bill brings them all back: “The new bill opens the door to junk insurance,” [says] Dave Jones, the California insurance commissioner.
So if Senator McCain wasn’t a millionaire and a U.S. senator, if he wasn’t already eligible for Medicare, and instead was stuck buying the type of “junk insurance” he is expected to try to inflict on the American people through his vote next week, he’d be spending the rest of his days in the poorhouse, fighting bill collectors every waking hour and eventually having to file for Bankruptcy because there was simply no way to pay for his bills. And that’s even assuming he doesn’t have any serious complications from the surgery.
Either that, or he could forego treatment for the blood clot altogether.
Maybe someone should ask him which option he’d take.