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Trump's Junk Plan Leaves Florida Man Holding The Bill For Coronavirus Testing

It would be a wildly ironic lesson in why the ACA matters, and it is. But it's also a warning about the public health crisis facing us.
Trump's Junk Plan Leaves Florida Man Holding The Bill For Coronavirus Testing
Image from: Roger Harris/Science Photo Library via Getty Images

Remember when Trump decided he'd get rid of the ACA by approving junk plans that could impose pre-existing conditions restrictions and don't pay for benefits that qualified ACA plans are required to cover? Remember how the right wing celebrated that and Trump crowed about how people could buy these crappy plans and tell themselves they had health insurance?

Well, have I got a story for YOU, courtesy of the Miami Herald. Osmel Martinez Azcue came down with flu-like symptoms after he visited China as part of a work trip. While he said he'd ordinarily just go get some cold and flu medicine from CVS, he thought he had better be tested for coronavirus, given the possibility he could have gotten it on his trip.

What happened next? This:

He went to Jackson Memorial Hospital, where he said he was placed in a closed-off room. Nurses in protective white suits sprayed some kind of disinfectant smoke under the door before entering, Azcue said. Then hospital staff members told him he’d need a CT scan to screen for coronavirus, but Azcue said he asked for a flu test first.

“This will be out of my pocket,” Azcue, who has a very limited insurance plan, recalled saying. “Let’s start with the blood test, and if I test positive, just discharge me.”

Oh. So the hospital did that. And he had the flu. What a relief for him!

Well, sort of. Right about the time he was recovered from his bout of the flu, he was slapped with a bill for $3,270, all of which was denied by his insurance company.

But wait! It gets better!

Hospital officials at Jackson told the Miami Herald that, based on his insurance, Azcue would only be responsible for $1,400 of that bill, but Azcue said he heard from his insurer that he would also have to provide additional documentation: three years of medical records to prove that the flu he got didn’t relate to a preexisting condition.

Yep, that's right. Some genius at the crappy for-profit insurer who was happy to take Azcue's money but cover nothing and then come up with the bogus argument that somehow a bout of the flu related to some mysterious pre-existing condition (What? He had a cold 3 years ago?) is EXACTLY why the ACA exists.

Was Azcue stupid for buying junk insurance? Yeah, he was. Here's why he did it:

Azcue said he earns about $55,000 a year working for a medical device company that does not offer health insurance, but his insurance plan wasn’t always so narrow. Last year, Azcue said he was covered under an Affordable Care Act-compliant plan that cost him about $278 in monthly premiums.

Those premiums shot up to $400 a month when his full year salary kicked in, so he canceled his plan in November, he said. Azcue said he now pays $180 per month for the limited plan from National General Insurance.

Was Azcue smart for going and getting tested for coronavirus? Yes, he absolutely was. He gets a "good citizen" award for that.

But what has just happened here is a leading indicator of what kind of health crisis is looming in front of us, because there are going to be a LOT of people out there with no insurance who will not do that. They will tell themselves they just have a cold, nothing more, go to CVS for some meds, pass around that virus to everyone they come in contact with, and maybe end up in the hospital, or worse yet, dead.

“When someone has flu-like symptoms, you want them to to seek medical care,” said Sabrina Corlette, a Georgetown University professor and co-director of the Center on Health Insurance Reforms. “If they have one of these junk plans and they know they might be on the hook for more than they can afford to seek that care, a lot of them just won’t, and that is a public health concern.”

It's more like a public health crisis. Sure, let's hear more about how people don't want to give up their GREAT private insurance for Medicare for All.

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