In a full-page advertisement in the Los Angeles Times on Sunday, January 26, 2020 (page A16A), Oscar Health Insurance advertised they had health plans for $1. They do not. No health plan has a $1 monthly premium in California. This is deceptive advertising and Covered California needs to stop this sort of misleading marketing on the part of their participating health plans.
The Oscar advertisement did have a little asterisk noting that the $1 did not apply to all plans. But this was an amateur attempt at some sort of fine print full disclosure. A real disclosure would have stated that the $1 health plan was the result of a federal Advance Premium Tax Credit subsidy that a consumer may be eligible for through Covered California.
In addition, the subsidy, that may lower an Oscar health plan, or one from Anthem Blue Cross, Blue Shield, Health Net, Kaiser, L.A. Care, or Molina, is based on household size and income. Of course, this was not mentioned in the fine print of the Oscar advertisement.
I having nothing against Oscar health plans. I help people enroll into them with and without the Covered California subsidy to reduce the monthly premium. I have many clients that are happy with their Oscar coverage.
Misleading Oscar Advertisement
I do have a problem with false and misleading marketing statements. The $1 health plan pitch is even more egregious because Oscar is basing their claim on a federal tax credit program. Medicare has strict marketing guidelines when it comes to advertising Medicare Advantage plans (that are subsidized by the federal government) to seniors and people with disabilities who are eligible for Medicare. It should be no different with the Covered California health plans.
Many insurance companies have marketed their health plans to individuals and families during the 2020 open enrollment period. They usually stress their network of providers as providing great care to their members. Oscar reduced their provider network in 2020. UCLA and Hoag physicians and hospitals are no longer participating providers in Oscar health plans offered through Covered California. People have switched out of Oscar health plans in Covered California because they can no longer see their UCLA or Hoag doctors. There are still many fine doctors and hospitals in the Oscar Select network offered through Covered California.
NO Health Plan Has A $1 Premium Rate
Regardless, an advertisement that misleads consumers to think they will just get a health plan for $1 per month is the sort of marketing that reinforces the public’s perception that the health insurance industry is sneaky and deceptive. If you are on Medi-Cal, you cannot get an Oscar health plan for $1. If you earn too much money to qualify for the federal Premium Tax Credit subsidies through Covered California, you cannot get a health plan for $1. If you want an Oscar health plan with UCLA or Hoag providers, offered only in the Circle network off-exchange, you cannot get health plan for $1.
One of the missions of Covered California is to help consumers easily compare different health plans offered to them. The monthly premium rate, after any federal or state subsidy, is a crucial part of a consumer’s packet of information for making an informed decision. The Oscar advertisement leads consumers to believe they will be eligible for some sort of Oscar health plan at $1. That is not true. You may be able to get a health plan for $1 through Covered California, if you qualify, and the subsidy will apply to any health plan offered.