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Rep. Kathy Castor: More Health Insurance Policies, More Problems

Rep. Kathy Castor (center) met with members of Florida Covering Kids and Families and the Childrens Board of Hillsborough County to voice support for the navigators working in Florida. Credit: Delaney Brown WUSF
Delaney Brown
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

People shopping for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act have more options than ever - but one lawmaker is warning that not all plans promise equal coverage.

At an event in Tampa Monday, Representative Kathy Castor warned consumers about the growing number of what she called “junk policies” that are saturating the market.

According to Castor, these policies may seem comprehensive on the surface, but do not cover many basic health services like drug treatment and mental health services. 

“Consumers are left on the hook - often for massive medical bills,” said Castor. “If you sign up for a 'junk plan' and then get a cancer diagnosis, you could probably end up in bankruptcy.”

She also said that the policies are part of what she called a "sabotage effort" by the Trump administration. 

"It's really unbelievable that the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress have continued to press so hard for repeal of the Affordable Care Act now, because they couldn't repeal it in Congress. They're pushing in the courts to have it repealed," said Castor. 

"They've cut outreach and enrollment efforts, they shortened the enrollment period, and they've promoted these junk plans," she added. "And it makes no sense at all. If you want to make sure that health insurance is affordable, you need a robust insurance pool."

According to Castor, the average Florida customer in the 2020 enrollment period has over 67 different coverage options to choose from - up from an average of 49 in the last period.

Castor urged insurance shoppers to seek out the help of health care navigators - people who are specifically trained to sort through the insurance policies offered under the Affordable Care Act - to find the policy best suited for them.

READ MORE: Tips for finding the right coverage plan for you 

“We know when you start looking at things like deductibles and premiums and copay and coinsurance. It gets really confusing,” said Jodi Ray, the Program Director of Florida Covering Kids & Families. “We want folks to feel like they can make an informed decision. And the best way to do that is to sit down with somebody who actually understands the plants that are in the marketplace this year.”

Ray said that the navigators are there to help customers understand their options, not recommend specific policies.

“We don’t have a stake in the game when it comes to what plan you pick,” said Ray, “other than making sure you’re picking something you’re happy with.”

Customers are able to meet with navigators in person to go over applications and apply for financial assistance, or if they prefer, arrange an appointment over the phone.

Customers looking to connect with a navigator can go to any of the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County  or . 

Copyright 2019 WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7

Delaney Brown is a radio news intern for the fall of 2019.