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"Bare-bones' health insurance is criticized

Insurance companies are responding to the call for affordable health coverage by offering bare-bones policies tantamount to "health insurance that doesn't insure," an advocacy group said Sunday. The Families USA Foundation criticized insurers for mounting a nationwide campaign to win the right to market less expensive policies it said provide extremely limited protection.

"They are descending upon state legislatures, seeking the right to market health insurance that is barely worth the paper it's written on," said Ron Pollack, executive director of the non-profit foundation.

For example, he said, under the stripped-down policy allowed in Kansas, a worker pays for the first $5,000 in health care bills plus monthly premiums.

"Paying a $5,000 deductible before the insurance takes affect means just one thing: Workers cannot afford to get the health care they need," Pollack said.

In Kentucky, he said, the stripped-down package covers just 14 hospital days, half of physician fees in the hospital and no outpatient coverage while imposing a $300 deductible and a 20 percent co-payment for hospital days.

Richard Coorsh, a spokesman for the Health Insurance Association of America, said the stripped-down policies are a good option for small businesses that otherwise would not be able to find coverage.

He said large, self-insured companies are allowed to offer bare-bones protection to their workers and that small businesses should be able to buy similar coverage.

Seventeen states, including Florida, have passed laws allowing companies to offer stripped-down policies, Families USA said. Other states are considering similar action, it said.

The policies may eliminate certain types of benefits, such as alcoholism treatment; certain types of individuals, such as newborn and adopted children; and care by certain kinds of providers, such as nurse midwives.