Insurance companies are failing the American people.
We all know it. The cost of deductibles, out-of-pocket bills and prescription drugs are pushing families’ budgets to the breaking point – and even though the cost of insurance keeps going up, coverage isn’t getting better.
The reason is simple: money. Private insurance companies are in the money-making business. They maximize their profits by bringing in the most money possible in premiums while spending the least money possible on customers’ health care.
The Affordable Care Act was a huge step in the right direction to making sure people have health care, but it’s not enough. We need to pass a “Medicare for All” type bill to give every single person in this country access to high-quality health care. Everybody is covered. Nobody goes broke because of a medical bill. No more fighting with insurance companies. This is a goal worth fighting for, and I’m in this fight all the way.
But let’s face it: Today, more than 216 million Americans rely on private insurance. And until we get Medicare for All, we should be holding insurance companies accountable to make sure they provide quality coverage that people can actually afford to use.
That’s why I introduced the Consumer Health Insurance Protection Act to do exactly that.
The bill has three simple proposals:
- Don’t let private health insurers cheat people by pulling tricks like dropping drugs from a plan in the middle of the year, ambushing people who rely on outdated provider directories, or drawing the boundaries of their networks so narrowly that lots of people can’t actually see a doctor.
- Require private health insurers to live up to the same standards we expect in Medicare and Medicaid. These two programs have strong, fair standards and oversight to make sure that when private health insurers participate in Medicare and Medicaid, they have to play by the rules and put patients first. Private insurance companies are subjected to far less oversight, allowing them to maximize profits and provide lower-quality care.
- When insurance companies howl that they can’t possibly be expected to do the first two things, call their bluff. Insurance companies that get billions in federal subsidies and access to Medicare and Medicaid should be expected to provide decent private health insurance plans as well. If some companies really, truly aren’t willing to provide high-quality, affordable coverage – if they really, truly want to pick up their toys and go home because their bazillion dollar profits aren’t high enough – then I say good riddance. It should all be linked: if a health insurer refuses to provide high-quality insurance, then let’s just replace them with public coverage.
Pretty simple ideas, but I guarantee that the health insurance industry is FURIOUS about them. They claim that basic standards will put them out of business. They stomp their feet and threaten to walk away from the health care exchanges.
My response? Give me a break.
In Massachusetts, we have the highest coverage rate in the nation and some of the lowest premiums. In other words, we have a lot of insurance companies that are doing right by their customers. But this didn’t happen by magic, and it sure didn’t happen overnight. We have tough rules for insurance companies, and those Massachusetts health insurers have lived up to these high standards by putting patients before profits. We can do the same in every state in the country.
Five of the largest publicly-traded insurance companies in the country raked in $17 billion in profits the last year alone. I don’t believe that an industry that has $17 billion in profits to hand out to its investors in a single year can’t afford to do right by the American people.
This isn’t pie-in-the-sklauy stuff – these are sensible, basic consumer protection changes we can make today to lower the out-of-pocket cost of health care for people across the country. It’s time we hold all private insurance companies accountable and make this health care system work better for all of us.