The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Warren, Colleagues Unveil Legislation to Hold Insurance Companies Accountable and Strengthen Consumer Protections

Senators' Bill mproves affordability of coverage and prevents Trump Administration sabotage of the ACA.


United States Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) today introduced the Consumer Health Insurance Protection Act to hold health insurance companies accountable and strengthen consumer protections in private health insurance. The bill builds on the progress made under the Affordable Care Act and includes provisions to improve the quality and affordability of health insurance purchased on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) exchanges or provided through employer coverage.

"A family's security can be swept away with just one bad diagnosis - just like with my little family back in Oklahoma. When I was 12, my daddy had a heart attack and we almost lost everything," said Senator Warren. "So long as private health insurance exists, there is no reason to allow our health care to be held hostage by insurance companies that refuse to do better. Our bill will hold them accountable while significantly improving access to healthcare for millions of Americans."

"Every Granite Stater and American deserves to have quality, affordable health insurance coverage to help them live healthy and productive lives," said Senator Hassan. "Too many families continue to struggle with rising health care costs - which have been exacerbated by the Trump Administration's efforts to sabotage the Affordable Care Act and destabilize health care insurance markets. I am proud to help introduce the Consumer Health Insurance Protection Act, which includes critically important provisions to lower health care costs and prioritize the needs of patients while also helping to stabilize insurance markets."

"No one should have to choose between receiving quality healthcare and putting food on their table, a roof over their head, or retiring with dignity. This legislation is a critical step forward for Americans who are feeling their paychecks squeezed over rising costs of healthcare as insurance companies earn record profits," said Senator Harris.

"In Wisconsin and across the country, premiums keep rising as a result of the Trump Administration's repeated attempts to sabotage our health care system. There is more that Washington can do right now to make health care more affordable and help families access the coverage that meets their needs. Wisconsinites want us to move forward to lower health care costs and provide more options, which is why I am supporting the Consumer Health Insurance Protection Act," said Senator Baldwin.

The Affordable Care Act made historic strides in expanding access to affordable, high-quality health insurance coverage and put an end to some of the most egregious practices that insurance companies used to shift costs onto patients. But today the more than 216 million individuals who rely on private insurance are facing rising out-of-pocket costs. Three out of every ten American adults with health insurance say they're having a hard time paying for their medical bills.

Too many patients also still have to battle with their insurance companies just to see a doctor or get a prescription filled. Insurance companies may draw their networks so narrow that patients struggle to find a doctor, drop doctors from their network in the middle of the year with no notice, and ambush patients who unwittingly relied on outdated provider directories with unexpected costs. Additionally, insurance companies may suddenly jack up out-of-pocket costs for a cancer or MS drug, or rip up a plan at the end of the year and leave patients scrambling to maintain access to their doctor. Meanwhile, insurance company profits are booming. The top insurers in the country pull in the majority of their revenue from Medicare and Medicaid, even as some of these same insurers claim they can't afford to participate in the ACA exchanges.

The Consumer Health Insurance Protection Act holds insurance companies accountable by putting an end to practices that hurt patients and requiring companies to live up to the same high standards that are set for private insurers when they participate in Medicare and Medicaid. The bill sets up an ombudsman program to track consumer complaints about insurers, sets limits on insurance company profits to match those private insurers can earn in Medicare and Medicaid, and protects against unreasonable premium increases with stronger rate review standards. The bill also requires insurers making money off Medicare and Medicaid to offer coverage on the ACA exchanges in areas with limited insurer competition.

The Consumer Health Insurance Protection Act also includes a number of provisions aimed at increasing the affordability of ACA coverage. The bill enhances the affordability of ACA plans by increasing premium tax credits, expanding cost-sharing reduction (CSR) subsidies, and making more families eligible for premium tax credits. These changes will guarantee that every individual on the ACA exchanges has access to a plan that covers 80% of out-of-pocket costs and costs no more than 8.5% of income in premiums. The bill would also guarantee payment of CSRs, strengthen protections for essential health benefits, require all short-term insurance products to meet ACA standards, and block the Trump Administration's rule on association health plans.

The Consumer Health Insurance Protection Act is endorsed by Families USA, Consumers Union, Public Citizen and Community Catalyst. See their statements of support here.

Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat and fearless consumer advocate who has made her life's work the fight for middle class families, was elected to the United States Senate on November 6, 2012, by the people of Massachusetts.