Column: GAO finds the selling of junk health plans favored by Trump is rife with deception

By Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Business News

One of the great features of the Affordable Care Act is that it clearly sets forth its consumer protection features, making it harder for unscrupulous health plan marketers to cheat the public.

It has been well understood that the Trump administration's energetic promotion of ACA-exempt health plans has the capacity to undermine this crucial safeguard.

Now the Government Accountability Office has put meat on the bones of that expectation, with a report detailing how its undercover staff were repeatedly misled by health plan sales representatives in sales calls.

Among other deceptions, sales reps repeatedly told the GAO agents that their plans would cover their preexisting diabetes. The plans, in fact, excluded coverage, limited its value, or required lengthy waiting periods before the coverage would kick in.

Trump has consistently claimed that he has a plan coming out that will guarantee coverage of people's preexisting medical conditions.

Based on the fact that he has never released any such plan despite promises that it's imminent, and based on his support of a red-state lawsuit that would extinguish the ACA in its entirely, that claim looks like a flagrant lie.


The GAO's experience with sales representatives of exactly the kinds of health plans Trump and his minions, such as Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, are pushing on the American public exposes the deception at the heart of Trump's promise.

We've reported before on the administration's drive to weaken the standards imposed by the ACA by promoting noncompliant health plans, through executive orders and proposed regulatory changes.

For example, the White House has pushed to liberalize the rules governing short-term health plans, which are traditionally designed as a bridge between full-service health insurance and are meant to last a few months at most; Trump has moved to extend their terms to as long as a year and allow them to be renewed.

Trump also has proposed liberalizing the rules governing faith-based health plans. These "sharing plans" are arrangements that don't guarantee that enrollees' claims will be paid at all.


swipe to next page
(c)2020 Los Angeles Times, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.