In a reversal from claims made on the campaign trail, Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign is now saying the senator and his family do have health insurance and never lost coverage. The late night Friday revelation came more than 24 hours after Cruz had told a New Hampshire audience that he and his family were without health insurance and were scrambling to obtain new coverage–and used the claim to slam Obamacare for the mess he was in.
In statements to Bloomberg and Wall Street Journal, campaign spokeswoman Catherine Frazier blamed Cruz’s false assertion that his family had lost their health insurance on a misunderstanding. She said an insurance broker told Cruz that BlueCross BlueShield of Texas was dropping his PPO plan, but Frazier said that the broker did not tell Cruz his family was automatically being transferred to the carrier’s HMO plan.
“Based on this information, Sen. Cruz believed the family was uninsured and asked the broker to pull quotes immediately for a new policy,” Frazier said.
Thursday, the senator had said he “got a notice in the mail” that “Blue Cross Blue Shield was leaving the market.” When TPM had asked BCBS of Texas when and how had it notified members about changes to their coverage, an official pointed to an announcement in July that explained that the insurer was dropping its PPOs but its HMO plans would be available for consumers.
“We worked with the members and their providers to minimize the impact of this change to their ongoing care, particularly if they needed to transfer their care to other providers,” BCBS-Texas spokeswoman Edna Pérez-Vega told TPM via email.
Thursday Cruz had also claimed that his search for new insurance was complicated because his “premiums are going up 50 percent.”
This allegation came as premiums on average in Texas went up only 4 percent in 2016, and the single biggest premium jump came from a tiny carrier that is raising premiums by 34 percent.
In explaining this claim by Cruz, Frazier said his family has opted to switch over to a new carrier starting in March with a plan more generous than the HMO that is currently covering him.
“The new premium—for coverage similar to what the Cruz family had last year—is roughly 50 percent higher,” Frazier said.
Finally, the statement said that his former BlueCross BlueShield PPO plan had been purchased “with no government funds.” Aside from the subsidies offered to users of the Obamacare exchange, the senator is eligible for insurance subsidized by his government employer, but has turned the option down.
That coverage must be purchased through the Washington, D.C. exchange — due to a Republican amendment in the Affordable Care Act requiring Congress members and their staff to use the Obamacare marketplace. But it comes with an employer subsidy that covers about three-quarters of monthly premiums.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) revealed Thursday that he and his family — including his two young daughters — are not currently covered by health insurance. His reason? The 2016 presidential candidate told his audience at a New Hampshire campaign stop that his provider, BlueCross BlueShield of Texas, had dropped all of its individual policies and he was finding an alternative because “our premiums are going up 50 percent.”
“That’s happening all over the country. That’s happening in New Hampshire,” he said.
However, a number of details of his account do not line up with what health care experts told TPM.
For one, BCBS-Texas did not drop all of its individual plans, but rather just its PPO plans –a type of health insurance that tends to be more expensive but also more flexible, because it allows consumers to visit a variety of caregivers without first receiving a referral. The insurer continued to offer its HMO plans and said it dropped its PPO plans in order to keep the other plans affordable.
“Last year we informed members that we would no longer offer PPO’s to individual policy holders, but would work to transition them to other available insurance plans for individuals so they would not experience a gap in coverage,” said BCBS-Texas spokeswoman Edna Pérez-Vega, via email to TPM. “Those who have been transitioned also have the option of choosing different plans for 2016. We worked with the members and their providers to minimize the impact of this change to their ongoing care, particularly if they needed to transfer their care to other providers.”
BCBS-Texas announced it was dropping the PPOs in July, meaning Cruz had months to find a plan before his coverage lapsed Dec. 31. (The open enrollment deadline for coverage kicking in on Jan. 1 was December 17).
In his remarks Thursday, Cruz suggested that his wife Heidi was frustrated that he had yet not found a replacement plan, though he has until the end of the month enroll in coverage that begins in March.
“By the way, when you let your health insurance policy lapse, your wife gets really ticked at you,” he said, according to Politico. “It’s not a good — I’ve had, shall we say, some intense conversations with Heidi on that.”
Was his own negligence to blame?
As to Cruz’s assertion that his premiums had spiked by 50 percent, according the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, on average, premiums in Texas increased by only 4 percent. (In New Hampshire, contrary to Cruz’s claim, premiums went up by 5 percent on average, according to the HHS.)
Furthermore, as Los Angeles Times columnist Michael A. Hiltzik pointed out, the premiums of some plans in Texas decreased, as tracked by Healthcare.gov and that none of them increased by 50 percent.
Cruz and his family were previously covered under a blue chip employer plan offered by Goldman Sachs, where his wife Heidi worked before going on unpaid leave in March to help with the campaign.
As a U.S. senator, Cruz also has the option to get coverage through the Washington, D.C.-exchange, where he would also be eligible for a subsidy up to 75 percent from his government employer, as Hiltzik also noted.
“Cruz is still eligible for the government’s employer subsidy of up to 75% of his health insurance premium,” Hiltzik wrote. “He has said he wouldn’t accept the employer share, which makes his complaint about his cost of insurance just a teeny bit more dishonest because he’s the one driving up his own premium.”
The Cruz campaign did not respond to requests from TPM to clarify his comments.