Guest column:

Call for ‘junk insurance’ is a step backward for America

This month, the Trump administration pushed a dangerous proposal to expand “short-term insurance plans,” also known as “junk insurance.”

This move is yet another Republican attack on American lives — including my own. I have stage 4 cancer, and if I still relied on junk insurance, I would probably be dead.

President Donald Trump’s proposal expands the availability of 12-month insurance plans that target healthy Americans and strip away the Affordable Care Act’s consumer protections. These plans offer used-car prices by providing a mirage of security: As soon as a patient requires serious medical attention, the plans limit their care or deny them coverage entirely.

Look under the hood. If you face a medical emergency while on these plans, don’t expect your insurance to protect you.

Junk insurance threatens all Americans. Healthy people are lulled into a false sense of security, because they’ve never had to test drive their coverage for anything serious. Their absence from the wider health care marketplace then raises health care costs for everyone else.

As a self-employed small-business owner, I have been buying my own policies on the individual market for nearly a decade. For years, I had no idea the danger I was in — and until last April, I was pretty healthy.

Before the passage of the ACA, I opted to choose my health insurance based on price. I didn’t worry about high medical costs, and ultimately relied upon dangerous short-term plans like the ones Trump is trying to sell us now. Like many Americans, I assumed my insurance would protect me when I needed it. I was wrong.

Before the ACA, these companies were allowed to be lawless and often ended up heartless and predatory. Without consumer protections, they were allowed to refuse to cover patients when they need it the most — including moments when a patient’s care means life or death. This was our reality before the ACA.

Once the ACA was instated, I was able to switch my insurance to a more robust plan. It was just in time. Last spring, I learned I had cancer — without treatment, my doctors told me I wouldn’t make it to Christmas.

Because of the ACA, I am still here; if I had still been on junk insurance, I might not be. Companies could have denied me coverage or canceled my policy, and I wouldn’t have gotten the care I needed to stay alive.

When I worked to help pass the ACA in 2009, I met many Americans who were less fortunate. Many people were abandoned by junk insurance companies in their greatest time of need. Instead of receiving the coverage they deserved, patients faced medical bankruptcy and sometimes death. The insurance game was rigged against us.

The Republican Party wants us to return to that reality. When the cost of our health care rises over the next year, remember that it’s because of Republicans’ choices to break our insurance market instead of fixing it.

I am tired of the GOP’s attacks. I am frustrated, I am angry, and I am scared for myself and for my friends. In November, we will have the opportunity to hold politicians accountable for their actions and remind our lawmakers that American lives are on the line.

Laura Packard is based in Las Vegas. She is a health care advocate and co-chair at Health Care Voter.