A group of Senate Republicans introduced a health care bill earlier this month that would leave more than 20 million Americans without insurance. The bill faced immediate resistance, both from Senate Democrats and a few Republicans who weren’t involved in the original drafting process. The list of those who opposed the bill included Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine), Dean Heller (R-Nevada), Mike Lee (R-Utah), and Ted Cruz (R-Texas.)
Cruz and Lee recently offered up an amendment to the bill, dubbed the “Consumer Freedom Option,” that would make it even more harmful to vulnerable Americans. The amendment, much like the bill it’s meant to improve, has faced harsh criticism since it was introduced.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) described the Consumer Freedom Option as follows:
‘Senator Ted Cruz has proposed modifying the Senate Republican health bill to allow any insurer that offers at least one plan satisfying the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) market reforms and consumer protections to also sell other plans in the individual market that do not comply with these standards. That would eviscerate protections for people with pre-existing conditions, which the Senate bill as drafted would already drastically weaken.’
The CBPP went on to list the specific effects that the Consumer Freedom Option would have on millions of Americans. It will “eliminate or weaken the ACA’s essential health benefits standard,” meaning that coverage for a number of services will be lost, including “maternity care, mental health treatment, treatment for substance use disorders, and prescription drugs.” The amendment would also “remove or raise the cap on out-of-pocket costs,” meaning some people could be charged enormous deductibles that far exceed the $7,300 per individual cap put in place under the ACA.
Furthermore, the Consumer Freedom Option would also eliminate minimum standards for how comprehensive an insurance plan must be, while also eliminating the requirement that insurers offer “lower-deductible, more comprehensive plans.”
The CBPP is not the only group that has taken issue with Cruz and Lee’s proposal. Multiple insurance groups have also spoken out against it.
In a statement released on Wednesday, America’s Health Insurance Plans argued that the proposal would “create an un-level playing field.”
‘Stable and well-functioning insurance markets require broad-based enrollment and a stable regulatory environment that facilitates fair competition and a level playing field. Unfortunately, this proposal would fracture and segment insurance markets into separate risk pools and create an un-level playing field that would lead to widespread adverse selection and unstable health insurance markets.’
The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association has also criticized the Consumer Freedom Option, calling it “unworkable.” In a letter to Cruz and Lee, the organization’s CEO, Scott Serota, wrote:
‘If plans entering the market are not subject to guaranteed issue requirements and could engage in denials for preexisting conditions, offer limited benefit designs and narrow networks, they would attract only healthy people from the existing market. This would make coverage unaffordable for those that remain and who may need more robust coverage because of their preexisting medical conditions. The result would be higher premiums, increased federal tax credit costs for coverage available on exchanges, and insurers exiting the market or pricing coverage out of reach of consumers.’
Ted Cruz and Mike Lee took an awful health care bill and managed to draft an amendment that would make it even worse. For the sake of all Americans, let’s hope this amendment gets the rejection it deserves.
Featured image via Mark Wilson/Getty Images.