W&L Law Professor Tim Jost Testifies on Mini-Med Policies at Congressional Hearing

Lexington, VA Thursday, December 02, 2010

Prof. Timothy S. Jost
Washington and Lee law professor Tim Jost testified at a U.S. Senate congressional hearing Wednesday (Dec. 1) on limited benefit health insurance plans. The hearing, titled "Are Mini Med Policies Really Health Insurance?," was held by the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

Mini-med insurance policies are a type of limited health plan often favored by retailers and restaurant chains. Workers typically pay between $10 and $20 per pay period for a plan with an annual coverage cap of $2,000.

Critics of such plans argue that such limited benefits plans leave Americans exposed to far too great a level of financial and health risk. A worker who becomes seriously ill will quickly exhaust the annual coverage and be left with no coverage whatsoever.

"[These plans] should disappear as soon as possible," Jost told the committee. "As a practical matter, however, they may be the only coverage available to some Americans until the premium tax credit and Medicaid expansions take place in 2014."

"In the interim, it is essential that these plans comply with the requirements of the law to the maximum extent possible and that consumers be fully informed of any waivers or adjustments granted to these plans and of how limited their coverage under these plans truly is," Jost added.

Also testifying at the hearing was Richard Floersch, executive vice president for human resources at the fast-food giant McDonald's, who defended limited benefits plans as a way to provide affordable health insurance for hourly workers.

Available Online: Hearing Video and Written Testimony

Jost, a fixture in the national debate over health care reform during the last year, was also in Washington on Nov. 22 for the announcement by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on the adoption of the medical loss ratio guidelines.

The new federal health care law stipulates that insurers spend at least 80 percent of premium revenue on medical claims or activities that improve the health of their customers. It was left to government regulators and the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), on which Jost serves as a consumer representative, to determine which activities count as improving health.

Timothy S. Jost is the Robert L. Willett Family Professorship of Law at the Washington and Lee University School of Law. He is a co-author of the casebook Health Law, used widely throughout the United States in teaching health law, and of a treatise and hornbook by the same name. His most recent book is Health Care at Risk: A Critique of the Consumer-Driven Movement from Duke University Press. In April, he received a nearly $300,000 grant from the Commonwealth Fund to research implementation issues involved with the recently passed health care reform legislation.

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