Speed Reads


The GOP health-care bill might incentivize insurers to cover 'aromatherapy but not chemotherapy'

The Affordable Care Act requires insurers to cover a number of baseline "essential benefits," including hospitalization, maternity and newborn care, and mental health treatments. But on the brink of the health-care vote in the House, a group of Republicans are aiming to repeal ObamaCare's minimum requirements. As the argument goes, Americans shouldn't have to pay for benefits they aren't using; a 60-year-old-man, for example, shouldn't have to pay for maternity care.

But as The New York Times reports, the lack of a baseline could lead to fraud and a looser interpretation of what "insurance" means. At a certain point, policies could even cover "aromatherapy and not chemotherapy."

The Republicans' plan proposes that Americans who are buying their own insurance receive money from the government. But "if the essential health benefits go away, insurance companies would be allowed to sell health plans that don't cover, say, hospital care. Federal money would help buy these plans," The New York Times writes. Here's more:

Mark Pauly, a professor of health-care management at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, who tends to favor market solutions in health care, said that while the ObamaCare rules are "paternalistic," it would be problematic to offer subsidies without standards. "If they're going to offer a tax credit for people who are buying insurance, well, what is insurance?" he said, noting that you might end up with the government paying for plans that covered aromatherapy but not hospital care. "You have to specify what's included."

A proliferation of $1,995 plans that covered mostly aromatherapy could end up costing the federal government a lot more money than the current GOP plan, since far more people would take advantage of tax credits to buy cheap products, even if they weren't very valuable. [The New York Times]

Read more about the potential consequences of losing essential benefits at The New York Times.