Under the Republican health care alternative filed in the House, young and healthy individuals can purchase policies from insurers that don’t abide by local benefit or rate standards. The Republican bill allows the health insurer to choose a “primary state” “whose covered laws shall govern the health insurance issuer” and market policies to other states without adhering “to all of the consumer protection laws or restrictions on rate changes of the state.”
Over at MYDD, Bruce Webb, calls the provision, “Sweatshop Insurance.” “This bill goes far beyond that in stripping states of power over insurance rates and conditions,” he notes. It “explicitly expands the definition of ‘State’ to include not just D.C. and Puerto Rico, which makes some sense in context, but adds BY NAME the Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa and Jack Abramoff’s favorite client-the Northern Marianas home of the ‘Made in the USA’ Chinese-owned close to slave labor sweatshops.” From pages 121–122 of the bill:
As Webb goes on to explain, “companies can simply designate the Northern Marianas as the ‘primary State’ for their plan, or since it is closer the Virgin Islands and then have those governments be the sole regulator. And given the record of corruption in the N. Marianas and the willingness of various Caribbean and Atlantic Island nations to let themselves be used as off-shore banking and tax shelter entities you can bet Aetna and WellPoint are slavering at the prospect of ‘basing’ their plans out of a PO Box on some tropical nation.”
The Wonk Room tried to identify if any of the islands regulated individual insurance policies. We contacted several lobbying firm representing the N. Marianas but only reached Donna Christensen, the non-voting Delegate from the United States Virgin Islands to the United States House of Representatives. Her office did not know if the Virgin Islands had any consumer protections for policies sold in the individual market.