Don't force out mini-med plans, retail organization says before hearing

With the Senate Commerce Committee’s hearing on so-called “mini-med” health plans set for Wednesday afternoon, the National Retail Foundation (NRF) warned that chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.) will try to push the coverage out of the marketplace, despite Obama administration efforts to keep the low-value plans in place.

Low-wage employers, including retailers, have said that they will have troubling meeting the healthcare reform law’s medical-loss ratio (MLR) standards requiring that health plans spend at least 80 percent of premiums on care (85 percent in the large-group market). Some low-wage employers have been offering low-value “mini-med” plans, with some providing as little as $2,000 in coverage per year.

Although the mini-med plans have been the subject of criticism in recent months, the NRF has had a “positive” experience working with the Obama administration to accommodate the plans, said NRF vice president for healthcare Neil Trautwein in a blog post Tuesday. The Obama administration has created a "fair" waiver process for restrictions on annual benefit limits and created a methodology to help plans meet new MLR standards in 2011, Trautwein said.

The NRF warned that 1.4 million Americans will lose their coverage if mini-med plans are eliminated.

“There is not an affordable substitute in the insurance market today nor can the hard-pressed state Medicaid rolls take on these newly uninsured Americans,” Trautwein said. “They will be forced to wait for new coverage options available under [healthcare reform] in 2014.”

The Senate Commerce Committee hearing, “Are Mini Med Policies Really Health Insurance?” is scheduled for 2:30  p.m. Wednesday.