Even in this extraordinary year, this has been an extraordinary week. Last Tuesday we had what many believe to have been the most important Presidential election in recent times, maybe ever. The week also found the coronavirus pandemic reaching new heights. That was the week that was.
What struck me, though, is how both our election systems and our healthcare system rely on “ordinary” people to keep them going. They’ve never been more extraordinary than this year.
The pandemic first impacted voting earlier in the year, during primary season. Going to the polls suddenly seemed like potentially a life-threatening choice, and working at them practically suicidal. Dates of primaries were moved, many polling stations were closed, new voting procedures were put into place, and absentee ballots found a new popularity. And yet people turned out in droves to vote, often standing in line for hours.
President Trump upped the ante by constantly railing against absentee ballots and warning about voter fraud. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, record numbers of people voted early, in person or by mail. Several states had surpassed 2016 numbers of voters before Election Day. Tens of millions more showed up on Election Day. And, amazingly, Election Day passed with relatively few incidents.
One of the most important responsibilities of the American government is to protect its citizens from harmful industry practices, from lead poisoning to dangerous pharmaceuticals to financial meltdowns. Its record is far from perfect, but government regulators usually act in good faith and in turn earn the trust of those they protect. As we head into Tuesday’s election, it’s important to shine a spotlight on the fact that the Trump administration has betrayed that trust yet again. They have allowed low-quality, unregulated forms of insurance called Short-Term Limited Duration Insurance (STLDI) to prey upon those who lost their jobs during this pandemic. Also known as “junk” insurance, this issue has gotten far less attention than the need to protect people with pre-existing conditions. But the consequences of its inadequate coverage can be just as devastating.
Only 57% of STLDI plans cover mental health care, only 29% cover prescription drugs, and virtually none cover pregnancy. These plans are also allowed to discriminate against the sick, which most do in order to save money. STLDI managed to penetrate the market through a combination of cheap prices, lucrative broker incentives, and deceptive marketing.
Consumers get very little back for their money with these plans. Plans on the Affordable Care Act’s exchanges must spend 80 cents out of every premium dollar collected on care. In 2018, the top five STLDI insurers spent only 43 cents.
Originally envisioned as short-term solutions to gaps caused by unexpected coverage loss, the Trump administration extended their maximum length from three to 12 months and allowed renewals that can essentially extend them to three years, thus drawing consumers away from the individual markets established under Obamacare. This was essentially a kick in the gut for the law, after the current administration was unable to win any legislative or court battles against it.
Episode 30 of “The THCB Gang” was live-streamed on Thursday, October 29th! Watch it below!
Matthew Holt (@boltyboy) was joined by some regulars and this episode was a spooky be a COSTUME PARTY! On this episode were data privacy expert Deven McGraw (@healthprivacy), writer Kim Bellard (@kimbbellard), health economist Jane Sarasohn-Kahn (@healthythinker), CTO of Carium Health Lygeia Ricciardi (@Lygeia), MD & hospital system exec Rajesh Aggarwal (@docaggarwal), policy & tech expert Vince Kuraitis (@VinceKuraitis), and me, THCB’s Editor-in-Chief (@zoykskhan). The conversation had a more spooked tone to it as many of us are worried about the safe transition of power, the safety of voters, the misinformation about herd-immunity, the rising COVID-19 cases, and everything happening in the Senate. What will the results of November 3rd bring for this country?
If you’d rather listen to the episode, the audio is preserved as a weekly podcast available on our iTunes & Spotify channels — Zoya Khan, producer