Matt Rosendale plans to spend part of tomorrow on a telephone town hall warning Montana consumers about scams emerging in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. I certainly hope he intends to warn Montanans about himself, because even though they offer shoddy, dishonest coverage, Rosendale is still shilling for short-term insurance plans that could leave patients out in the cold if they do get sick.
From a report from KTVQ:
Or, Rosendale says there are other, non-ACA options available, including short-term, limited-duration health insurance and Direct Primary Care through the state of Montana.
Short-term plans typically offer less thorough coverage than ACA plans, but are usually cheaper.
While direct primary care is not insurance, but is instead a membership signed up for directly with a doctor’s office to get the specific services they provide.
For more on short-duration insurance you can visit the commissioner’s website here.
“Don’t wait until you get sick. Don’t go uncovered. That is really a big thing,” said Rosendale.
I should probably reserve some of my ire for KTVQ, which ran Rosendale’s claims as true without any further research and misrepresented the details about Direct Primary Care, but that particular ship has sailed.
Rosendale, however, should know better. His very job is to regulate and oversee insurance in Montana, and the record for short-terms plans is not encouraging.
Former State Auditor John Morrison took Rosendale to task for supporting these short-term plans back in 2018:
Welcome to the world of short-term medical insurance. It has been aptly called “junk insurance” because if you get sick or injured, it isn’t worth much. The leading band of companies marketing these products through the internet and call centers has a stack of complaints against them here in Montana and more than 40 state insurance departments investigating them. Bad insurance, often sold by bad companies, engaging in bad practices. Take the money and run…
Short-term junk insurance means less health coverage, more medical bankruptcies and more scams.
As the Billings Gazette noted in an editorial in 2018, Rosendale has worked his entire political career to gut healthcare access for Montanans and has championed short-term plans that are “hazardous to our health”:
In April, the Kaiser Family Foundation reported that 43 percent of the short-term plans it analyzed in 45 states don’t cover mental health services, 62 percent don’t cover substance abuse treatment, 71 percent don’t cover outpatient prescription drugs and none cover maternity care. In Montana, according to the Kaiser analysis, none of the four short-term plans available provided any of those benefits.
And to suggest that consumers enter short-term plans during the COVID-19 outbreak is to expose them to lies, fraud, and misrepresentation about the coverage they offer.
The Brookings Institute conducted a study just a few weeks ago and found that companies selling short-term plans are often not honest with consumers, particularly about the pre-existing conditions that are used so commonly to deny payment:
Recent analyses have highlighted that insurance agents and brokers selling these plans do not always deal transparently with consumers. On March 18, 19, and 20, we conducted a series of phone conversations with health insurance agents, brokers, and other salespeople to investigate marketing practices associated with COVID-19. Posing as a 36-year-old woman seeking coverage because of concerns about COVID-19 (additional details appear in the Appendix), we were offered a variety of short-term or other non-compliant plans from nine different brokers. In these conversations, we discussed plan coverage and asked questions about how the coverage would apply if the enrollee were to need care related to COVID-19. Salespeople were quick to reassure us that COVID-19 related costs would be broadly covered, despite plan documents or other statements indicating that the coverage would not be nearly as robust as promised. In the conversations, we heard misleading – and sometimes false – information about how COVID-19 related testing and treatment would be covered by the plan and the circumstances under which it would be a pre-existing condition.
The danger of the short-term plans during this pandemic extend to both consumers and public health at large, as the story of a man who received a bill for thousands of dollars after being tested for COVID-19 illustrates.
“This is a largely unregulated insurance product that uses fine print and bureaucracy to keep premium as profit and out of the hands of providers that deliver needed medical services,” Murray said in Wednesday’s regarding the brief. “Unfortunately, these plans have been encouraged to proliferate —? and it’s entirely possible that they may keep people from seeking needed medical attention and contribute to the spread of the coronavirus here in the U.S.”
Short-term insurance plans will discourage people from taking the risk of seeking medical attention they may desperately need. They will run a genuine chance that an unscrupulous, poorly regulated company will take advantage of someone in a health crisis because they either didn’t understand—or were lied to about—the fine print.
And given Commissioner Rosendale’s cozy relationship with insurers and his office’s promotion of these plans, why would any insurer worry that Rosendale would put up a fight for the consumer?
Brookings concludes that, rather than endorsing short-term plans, regulators like Rosendale should, you know, regulate them:
These results reflect a need for enhanced oversight by state regulators. Clear guidance should be provided to agents and brokers on how to describe plan limitations, and state insurance regulators (and other consumer protection agencies, where applicable) should make clear they intend to take enforcement action against brokers or other salespeople that violate state law standards for accuracy and transparency. State regulators should also provide guidance to consumers warning them of the limitations of these plans for individuals seeking COVID-19 related care, and encouraging everyone to review written plan details.
Crises like the COVID-19 pandemic bring out the best in some people, but they bring out the worst in others. With scammers operating all over the country trying to take advantage of terrified people, it’s unbelievably frustrating that the person in Montana charged with protecting us from insurance scammers is working for them.
From his first day in public life, Matt Rosendale has fought against your right to have access to affordable healthcare, and now he’s fighting for the right of dishonest frauds to take your money, too.
Desperate as Rosendale is to get back to Washington, D.C., don’t Montanans deserve a member of Congress who cares more about us than he does insurance company executives?