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Coronavirus Patients Shouldn’t Depend on the Mercy of Insurance Companies

Statement of Robert Weissman, President, Public Citizen

Note: According to InsideHealthPolicy, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the main health insurance lobby, said some insurers are extending their offers of free coronavirus care beyond their original deadlines at the end of May and June following a Public Citizen report issued yesterday. Additionally, the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association announced that it was extending its offer throughout the duration of the federal health emergency. However, the offers of some insurers, including the largest, United Health, have not announced that they are extending their offers.

While it is crucial that some insurers are now are belatedly announcing that they intend to extend their out-of-pocket costs waivers for COVID-19 treatment, it is important to remember that this is late, voluntary and likely would not have even happened without groups like ours shining a spotlight on the rapidly approaching end dates. However, the voluntary nature of these waivers means that insurers could renege on them at any time. Patients cannot and should not have to depend on the whims of insurance companies during the worst health care crisis in a century.

Our for-profit health care system is failing Americans during the worst possible time. Tens of millions of Americans are losing their jobs and their access to health care because – unlike any comparably wealthy country – health care in America is still tied to employment. We need commonsense legislation like the Health Care Emergency Guarantee Act and the Medicare Crisis Program Act that would help prevent the crisis from getting worse.

These bills would also help spur the country’s recovery while decreasing our dependence on health care profiteers being in a generous mood when they get out of bed in the morning. We need Medicare for All so we can finally ensure that everyone in the U.S. can access the care they need when they need it, regardless of ability to pay.

The health care industry’s proposed solution for those who lose their insurance benefits due to unemployment is to ask the government to fund their insurance benefits through the COBRA program. This proposal would cost taxpayers far more per enrollee than simply enrolling those who lose their insurance in Medicare and would provide far less generous benefits.