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Cramer Reintroduces Bill Allowing Charities, Non-Profits to Help Patients Pay for Health Care

Oct 5, 2017
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Kevin Cramer has reintroduced legislation with 15 original co-sponsors prohibiting a loophole that allows health insurance providers to discontinue health insurance of chronically sick individuals if a charity or non-profit helps them pay for their insurance premiums.  Last Congress, the bill received broad bipartisan support with 146 Congressional Members from both parties and all political spectrums signing on as co-sponsors. It was also included in the House GOP’s ‘Better Way’ plan.

The Access to Marketplace Insurance Act. specifically allows non-profits, civic groups, and churches to help pay cost sharing and health insurance premiums for individuals and families – a practice that has been increasingly banned by insurance companies.

Cramer first introduced the bill during the 114th Congress in response to an interim final rule issued by the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS). The rule gave authority to insurers offering plans on the Obamacare exchanges to deny non-profit charities from providing premium assistance, a service provided to sick individuals who cannot afford to pay their health insurance premiums on their own accord.  Since the release of the interim final rule, plans in 41 states have announced a prohibition against allowing non-profits, civic groups and churches to help with health insurance premiums or cost-sharing for individuals and families. Cramer’s bill requires health insurance companies to accept payments from non-profit organizations.

For many years, non-profits, civic groups, and churches have helped pay health insurance premiums for individuals and families. Patients with rare diseases and catastrophic illnesses use this program to pay for their health insurance premiums, which become inflated due to the price of rare-disease medications that can cost upwards of $500,000 per year.   While many health plans cover the majority of these costs, some plans put low-income individuals in financial distress.  As a result, chronically ill individuals may face a choice between paying bills or taking medications.

“I didn’t believe it when I first heard that, under Obamacare, health insurance companies were banning sick individuals from accessing health care if a charitable entity was helping them pay the bill,” said Cramer. “That practice, and the fact that CMS is allowing it to continue, literally goes against everything the Affordable Care Act claims to stand for, which is why my bill has received such strong bipartisan support. The Access to Marketplace Insurance Act removes the handcuffs from private charities, allowing them to assist insured patients pay their premiums and stay on health insurance.”

Earlier this year, Cramer sent a letter to CMS with the support of 183 of his colleagues requesting CMS overturn the rule. He also penned an opinion editorial, which is featured in The Hill today. The letter reads, in part, “Regardless of the changes ahead for the U.S. health care system, Americans with expensive diseases need help now to mitigate the effects of prohibitive insurance costs. I urge all of my colleagues in Congress to join me in ensuring that charities can continue to be charitable…”

Cramer is the at-large House Representative for the state of North Dakota, and serves on the Energy and Commerce Committee, which has direct jurisdiction over health care issues.

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