President Donald Trump has revived the Wild West of free-range, rules-be-damned health insurance. Insurance policies that take liberties in the name of liberty.
Some call Trump’s health insurance scheme a sham, a hustle, a fraud. But, I ask you, would this president associate himself with any enterprise as sketchy as all that? Of course not.
But I would. One man’s rip-off is another man’s reward.
The fleet of foot will cash in on — I mean, celebrate — Trump’s latest stealth step away from the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, which has been very, very unfair to anyone looking to make a fast buck in health insurance. Trump, bless his heart, is putting the gross back into margins and the marginal back into insurance.
My vision, Phantom Insurance, will make my fortune selling health policies at crazy low prices. For people who aren’t all hung up on consumer protections. The marketing plan will give millions of Americans reason to reacquaint themselves with the phrase “caveat emptor.” That’s Latin for “Place sucker bets at your own risk.”
It’s never too early to start selling, so let us pause for a commercial message.
Are you in perfect health, confident that if you’re well today you’ll be illness-free forever?
When you see a truck barreling toward you, do you make a point of not being hit by it? When movers are lowering a grand piano from an apartment window, do you avoid standing under it? If approached by a leprosy-ridden armadillo, do you resist petting it?
If the answer to all those questions is “yes,” then don’t delay. Phantom Insurance would like to hear from you. Act now, and for only $29.99 a month, get health insurance that will give you peace of mind — until you need it. Our motto at Phantom Insurance: “If you imagine that you’re insured, you’ll feel better.”
But, wait, there’s more!
You don’t have to be awash in the glow of good health, or practice common sense, to qualify for a Phantom Insurance policy. We don’t discriminate. We’ll take anybody’s money.
Have a touch of arthritis? Ever had a back injury? Can’t help wondering about that mysterious spot on the tip of your nose?
No worries. Welcome to Phantom Insurance, where we’re eager to ignore your flaws today, though perhaps not tomorrow. Our watchwords: “When you have a claim, we’ll eventually get back to you.”
For $29.99 a month, sleep well at night. Indeed, at Phantom Insurance we prefer customers who don’t have their eyes open.
Of course, some namby-pamby representatives of the Nanny State were alarmed recently when Trump introduced a new regulation to allow so-called short-term health insurance to cover enrollees for up to a year and be renewed up to 36 months. Under Obamacare, such policies were six-month, stopgap plans meant to cover people between jobs or in similar temporary circumstances.
Short-term plans have features familiar from the days before Obamacare — no coverage on pre-existing conditions, exceedingly high deductibles, no prescription-drug benefits, total coverage limits as low as $3,000 and terms like no reimbursement for hospital admissions on weekends. In essence, sellers of short-term policies — now free to sell to a potential market estimated at 2 million people — guarantee paying almost nothing in return for bargain-basement premiums.
Maybe not the best option for desperate people looking for affordable health insurance, but a fresh frontier for impresarios to promote stripped-down policies. Slick brochures from slick operators.
“After an illness or an injury, many Americans who enroll in these GOP junk health coverage plans will end up being hit by crushing medical bills, finding that they have been paying for coverage that doesn’t cover much at all,” said U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, the House Democratic leader. What a sourpuss.
People who buy the new policies and develop cancer could “face astronomical costs” and “may be forced to forgo treatment entirely because of costs,” said Chris Hansen, the president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. As if health care were a right.
Why must some people be so negative? The Trump administration has a more market-oriented, business-friendly attitude about health insurance labeled “short-term” but that now may be renewed year after year.
“Fundamentally, this administration believes in more options, not fewer, for consumers. Expanding short-term insurance is just part of President Trump’s larger agenda to improve health care choice and competition for Americans,” Alex M. Azar, Health and Human Services (HHS) secretary wrote in a Washington Post commentary.
Trump is pro-choice, except in the case of women who find themselves “in a family way.” In homage to those views, short-term health insurance policies consider pregnancy a pre-existing condition. It’s one thing to celebrate new life. It’s another to pay for it.
If the young and healthy shift away from pricey Obamacare policies — made more expensive by Trump administration maneuvers to undermine the program — that’s by design. It’s almost as if the president and his pals are putting private profit ahead of public health. Or, as we say at Phantom Insurance, “Good times!”
Trump’s wing man on health care, Azar at HHS, assures that all will be well (except, perhaps, for the sick): “The Trump administration has gone to significant lengths to ensure customers know that these plans are not subject to the same regulations as Obamacare plans and that they are not the right choice for everyone. In fact, we require more robust warnings about the limits of these plans than President Barack Obama’s administration did.”
Everything will be spelled out in the fine print. If the print’s too small for customers to read, that’s their problem. Come to think of it, poor eyesight suggests any number of other pre-existing conditions. Not covered!
Here’s the best news for Phantom Insurance and others in the short-term health insurance con, uh, community: We get to define pre-existing conditions. Explore an adventure in creative thinking. An attack of shingles? Pity. You should have told us you had chickenpox when you were 5. Injured in a tumble? Maybe your past alcohol abuse set you up for a fall. Claim denied. Health history is your burden to bear, not ours.
Of course, state insurance departments yet may saddle short-term health insurance plans with intrusive, burdensome regulation. (Is there any other kind?)
So maybe Phantom Insurance steers clear of killjoys in the Minnesota State Capitol. I’ll bet many of the other 49 states have pliant insurance officials who won’t overexert themselves probing new insurance plans. Georgia on my mind. Indiana’s calling. The eyes of Texas are upon me — not looking all that closely, of course.
My dream is not yet reality. The formidable barrier to embarking on my grand vision — made promising by delivering on few promises — will be to raise startup money. Capital to convince state governments that Phantom Insurance officials have the money to make payouts, if and when they feel like it. Cash will be needed to rent a post-office box and hire a shadow brigade of customer representatives to keep callers hanging on the line for hours. Not to mention back-office personnel to ignore stacks of claims gathering dust. And let’s not forget the cost of sending “REJECTED” forms to anyone who seeks medical reimbursement. Stamps cost money.
An ordinary bank probably won’t lend to someone without a lot of skill to back up a business plan. Angel investors will want to share in the profits. Where can I find backers to provide capital to launch a health insurance firm based on tried-and-true Trump principles? People with experience in creative finance, ready to make dark-of-night wire transfers and ask few questions.
Anybody know any Russians?
Mike Meyers, a former Star Tribune business reporter, is a Minneapolis writer.