Patient Advocates Voice Concern Over Proposed "Copper" Plan

Consumers thinking about becoming enrolled in health insurance exchange plans may gain access to a new low-premium, high-deductible option: the copper plan. However, these plans have many patient advocate groups and policy experts concerned about their "bare-bone" offerings.

Consumers thinking about becoming enrolled in health insurance exchange plans may gain access to a new low-premium, high-deductible option: the copper plan. However, these plans have many patient advocate groups and policy experts concerned about their “bare-bone” offerings.

“It’s a false promise of affordability,” said Sabrina Corlette, project director at Georgetown University’s Center on Health Insurance Reforms. “If you ever have to use the plan, you won’t be able to afford it.”

The current exchange marketplace offers a range of plans: platinum, gold, silver, and bronze. Platinum plans cover 90% of medical expenses, while bronze plans only cover 60% of costs. There is also a “catastrophic” plan that is offered mainly to individuals under 30 years old. The copper plan, which was proposed by America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) and a group of senators led by Mark Begich (D-Alaska), intends to attract those who have yet to enroll in an exchange plan and are seeking a low-cost option.

“Plans do considerable outreach, and they’re hearing that affordability is a top priority for consumers,” said Karen Ignagni, president and chief executive of AHIP. “This is about access. It’s about how do we give people the opportunity to get into the market.”

If adopted, the copper-level plan would cover 50% of enrollees healthcare expenses — and unlike existing catastrophic plans — it would be eligible for tax subsidies. With a deductible as high as $9,000, however, it is unlikely many would be find the option affordable.

“I don’t think people will necessarily be satisfied with a policy with a cheap premium that doesn’t really pay for much,” said Larry Levitt, senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Around the Web

Effectiveness of High Deductible 'Copper' Plans Under Scrutiny [California Healthline]

Cheaper Premiums in ‘Copper’ Health Plans Mean Higher Costs to Pay If You Get Sick [The Washington Post]