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Dr. Maura Shea examines patient Michelo Cineas at the Codman Square Health Center in Dorchester, Mass. - 

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JEREMY HOBSON: Today in Washington, a Senate committee will look into bare-bones health insurance policies that cover nearly a million and a half workers around the country. They're called mini-med plans and they offer limited coverage. Today, Senators will be asking whether that coverage is too limited.

Our Washington Bureau Chief John Dimsdale has the story.


John Dimsdale: Mini-med plans are usually offered by companies that pay low wages. They cover a limited number of doctor visits, or cap maximum pay-outs anywhere between $1,000 to $10,000 a year. Stephen Finan of the American Cancer Society says mini-med plans are inadequate.

Stephen Finan: They're junk plans. But they have the pretense of being real insurance when they're not.

But employers who buy mini-med plans say they're not supposed to be comprehensive. They're a cheap alternative. And Devon Herrick at the National Center for Policy Analysis says many low wage workers prefer limited annual pay-outs to high deductible plans. Those plans only cover catastrophic illnesses.

Devon Herrick: A lot of your moderate income workers didn't really like those because those didn't offer quick access to day-to-day medical care.

Mini-med plans will disappear when health reform kicks in in 2014. In the meantime, Congress is considering raising their minimum coverage even earlier.

In Washington, I'm John Dimsdale for Marketplace.