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CU commends Senator on legislation to improve quality of health insurance

May 23, 2006
The Honorable Mark Dayton
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Senator Dayton:
Consumers Union, the independent, non-profit publisher of Consumer Reports, congratulates you on your legislation to call attention to the various exclusions, exemptions, and loopholes that exist in all too many health insurance policies. Your proposal calls attention to the desperate need to simplify and improve the quality of health insurance policies sold to American consumers.
All too often a person buys a policy and thinks they have coverage, only to be stuck with medical bills because of ‘fine print’ exclusions. Your proposal would help highlight this problem and serve as a caveat emptor warning to consumers. In one recent case, a California family with a history of cancer had purchased a chemotherapy insurance rider. The cancer recurred and it was only then that they understood that the rider limited payments to $1000 per treatment—but the treatments cost about $18,000 each! The cancer proved terminal and when the family member died, the widow was left with $480,000 in medical bills. Policies that provide such severe limits and exceptions should be clearly identified and explained so that consumers can make informed decisions to protect themselves and their loved ones.
The experience of millions of seniors and people with disabilities in shopping for Medicare drug plans shows how difficult it is for many people to make sense of arcane health terminology and details. Therefore bills such as yours—which basically highlight non-coverage provisions at the very beginning of a policy—will help consumers cut through the fine print and immediately understand the limits on the policy they are considering.
Thank you again for your work on this, and so many other, consumer issues.
William Vaughan
Senior Policy Analyst
Washington Office