AHIP urges Congress to add new coverage tier

By Joanne Finnegan

Congress should consider adding a new tier of Affordable Care Act coverage that would be less comprehensive than what insurance plans are now required to offer, America's Insurance Plans President and CEO Karen Ignagni told C-SPAN in an interview on Friday.

When asked how Congress could fix problems with the health insurance exchanges, Ignagni said she would like to see Congress create a lower tier of coverage with lower costs that would allow people to gradually get into the insurance exchanges and ensure healthier people are part of the risk pool.

Under current regulations, consumers can chose from four metal tiers: bronze, silver, gold and platinum, as well as a catastrophic plan available for people under 30. Those metal tiers all require health insurers to offer comprehensive benefits that cover 10 categories of essential benefits.

Ignagni suggested adding another tier that would offer less comprehensive benefits at a lower premium, noting that some individuals and small businesses preferred the old market choice with high deductibles and low premiums, according to C-SPAN.

Federal health officials set up the ACA on the premise that everyone should have comprehensive insurance, with the exception of people under 30, who are presumably healthier and who could opt for a plan that would only cover catastrophic health events. However, many people complained about not being able to purchase health plans that offered low premiums with fewer benefits, according to C-SPAN.

Such complaints led to an apology from President Barack Obama for canceling health plans that don't offer comprehensive coverage as required by the Affordable Care Act.

Meanwhile, a December 2013 report from HealthPocket looked at exchange coverage tiers and found that while bronze plans are usually the least expensive coverage options when shopping on exchanges, silver, gold and platinum plans also can be considered well-priced plans depending on how consumers use medical benefits.

To learn more:
- view the interview on C-SPAN