Sep 30, 2019

Ads for "Trumpcare," which doesn't exist, are everywhere

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Do a quick search for health insurance, and you'll find plenty of ads for "Trumpcare" plans that cost $59 or less per month. But there's a catch: Trumpcare doesn't exist, and many of these advertised plans offer bare-bones coverage.

Why it matters: For people who buy health insurance on their own instead of receiving it through an employer, searching for a plan is already challenging. And deceptive marketing only makes it harder, especially when these plans will leave consumers on the hook for potentially ruinous medical bills.

Reality check: The primary way the Trump administration has altered the insurance market is by expanding niche products — including short-term plans, association plans and health reimbursement arrangements.

After seeing Trumpcare ads in search engines, I submitted contact information to get quotes about coverage options. Over the the next week, I was bombarded with 70 phone calls and 12 texts from insurance brokers.

  • Every broker I spoke to admitted there is no such thing as Trumpcare, and that it is a marketing ploy from the lead generator site.
  • When I asked how I could get the plan that was advertised for $59 or less per month, brokers said the ads were in reference to short-term plans or fixed indemnity plans that offer little to no coverage for serious illness or injury.

What they're saying: "These websites that are selling 'Trumpcare' are capitalizing on the fact that very few people know what's going on," said Louise Norris, an independent insurance broker in Colorado.

  • One family who recently bought a short-term plan through Health Insurance Innovations, a platform that has used fraudulent brokers, was on the hook for more than $244,000 in medical bills even though they thought they were protected, Bloomberg reported.

The other side: Jeff Smedsrud, co-founder of HealthCare.com, a site that has advertised "Trumpcare" plans, said he didn't think it was misleading to use that framing for plans that are sold through its brokers.

  • "Could it lead to confusion? I don't think it has. Anything is possible," he said. "I'll certainly look at what we do. I may have our team change our mind on that."

The bottom line: "It's impossible to expect consumers to discern between the good guys and the con artists," said Sabrina Corlette, a health insurance researcher at Georgetown University. "And it's not the good guys that pop up on the first page of your Google search results."

Go deeper

The wreckage of summer

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

We usually think of Memorial Day as the start of the summer, with all of the fun and relaxation that goes with it — but this one is just going to remind us of all of the plans that have been ruined by the coronavirus.

Why it matters: If you thought it was stressful to be locked down during the spring, just wait until everyone realizes that all the traditional summer activities we've been looking forward to are largely off-limits this year.

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 5,410,228 — Total deaths: 345,105 — Total recoveries — 2,169,005Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 1,643,499 — Total deaths: 97,722 — Total recoveries: 366,736 — Total tested: 14,163,915Map.
  3. World: White House announces travel restrictions on Brazil, coronavirus hotspot in Southern Hemisphere Over 100 coronavirus cases in Germany tied to single day of church services — Boris Johnson backs top aide amid reports that he broke U.K. lockdown while exhibiting symptoms.
  4. Public health: Officials are urging Americans to wear masks headed into Memorial Day weekend Report finds "little evidence" coronavirus under control in most statesHurricanes, wildfires, the flu could strain COVID-19 response
  5. Economy: White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett says it's possible the unemployment rate could still be in double digits by November's election — Public employees brace for layoffs.
  6. Federal government: Trump attacks a Columbia University study that suggests earlier lockdown could have saved 36,000 American lives.
  7. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredTraveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

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Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

U.S. coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios. This graphic includes "probable deaths" that New York City began reporting on April 14.

The CDC is warning of potentially "aggressive rodent behavior" amid a rise in reports of rat activity in several areas, as the animals search further for food while Americans stay home more during the coronavirus pandemic.

By the numbers: More than 97,700 people have died from COVID-19 and over 1.6 million have tested positive in the U.S. Over 366,700 Americans have recovered and more than 14.1 million tests have been conducted.