UnitedHealth Caves on Coronavirus Benefits; 2021 Insurer Premiums See Double-Digits; Two Local Resolutions Pass

Public Citizen Has You Covered

Welcome to this week’s edition of “We’ve Got You Covered,” a weekly tipsheet designed to highlight key news about Medicare for All and call out the biggest health care industry lies and falsehoods about universal health care. Please send tips, feedback and questions to Mike Stankiewicz, mstankiewicz@citizen.org, (202) 588-7779.

UNITEDHEALTH CAVES TO EXTENDING CORONAVIRUS BENEFITS

You would think after posting a record $6.6 billion in profits last quarter – due in large part to the pandemic – that UnitedHealth Group Inc. would extend their offers of free coronavirus care indefinitely, right?

Wrong.

These waivers of free care for UnitedHealth customers were slated to expire on July 24, yet the insurer – likely too busy counting their profits – neglected to announce any extension of the waivers, leaving enrollees in the dark. It wasn’t until Public Citizen publicly condemned the insurer that it decided to act and extend the offers until October 22. For months Public Citizen has been keeping track of insurers’ coronavirus benefits.

“Why did a corporation that posted $6,600,000,000 in profits last quarter need to be publicly shamed into extending its free coronavirus care?” Public Citizen asked.

And why aren’t these offers being extended indefinitely, as the global pandemic certainly will not end in the next three months? Maybe letting profit-hungry corporations run our health care system, especially during a pandemic, isn’t the best idea.

INSURERS ALREADY EYEING 2021 PREMIUM INCREASES

As if profiting from a pandemic that’s already killed 150,000 Americans and infected 4 million wasn’t enough, some insurers already are eyeing double-digit rate increases from 2021.

According to public rate filings compiled by Kaiser Family Foundation, CareFirst HMO (Blue Choice) of Washington, D.C., Anthem Health Plans of Kentucky and New Mexico Health Connections are proposing premium increases of 14.7%, 16.62% and 31.8% respectively.

Proposed rate changes vary widely, from slight reductions in premiums to double-digit increases depending on the insurer and location. In New York for example, Healthnow customers could see a 1.94% decrease in their premiums while Fidelis customers might face a nearly 19% increase.

Under Medicare for All, patients would never need to worry about premium increases as premiums wouldn’t exist, saving employers and individuals the worry each year over whether they will be able to afford their health care plan.

TWO MORE MEDICARE FOR ALL RESOLUTIONS PASS

Fed up with how corporate insurers have mishandled America’s health, two localities in New Jersey and Michigan have passed resolutions in support of Medicare for All.

Last Tuesday commissioners in Kalamazoo County, Mich. – with a population of 265,000 – approved a resolution in support of the universal, single-payer policy.

“This pandemic should make everyone aware of the problems of our existing for-profit health insurance system: tens of millions of people uninsured or underinsured while we pay the highest prices for health care on the planet,” said one commissioner.

Red Bank, N.J. – located in the Trump-voting Monmouth County – also passed a resolution last week, continuing a trend of support in red and conservative areas. Last month, Knoxville, Tenn. – located in a heavily red, Trump-supporting congressional district – passed a similar resolution.

In recent months the coronavirus pandemic has galvanized other cities as well, including New Orleans and South Bend, Ind., to demand that Congress finally act and provide guaranteed health care to all Americans.

PUBLIC CITIZEN’S WORK

Public Citizen has advocated for single-payer health care since our founding in 1971 and has worked for decades to end profiteering and waste in health care – whether from insurers, Big Pharma or hospitals.

Public Citizen is dedicated to building the grassroots movement we will need to win Medicare for All. Along with our 500,000 members and allies, Public Citizen works with local elected officials in cities, counties and towns from coast to coast to pass resolutions supporting Medicare for All and send a powerful signal to Congress that health care is a human right.

To speak with a Medicare for All policy expert, or if you have questions about Public Citizen’s work, please contact Mike Stankiewicz, mstankiewicz@citizen.org, (202) 588-7779.