Published: Mon, August 06, 2018
Medical | By Garry George

Trump administration widens availability of skimpy, short-term health plans

Trump administration widens availability of skimpy, short-term health plans

"Our main concern is that OR consumers understand that these policies are not ACA compliant, and may not offer the same protections and health benefits as an ACA plan, such as emergency services, prescription drug coverage and maternity care", said Brad Hilliard, spokesman for Oregon's Department of Consumer and Business Services.

"There are many lawsuits and consumer complaints around the country stemming from unpaid bills" resulting from the short-term plans, Richard Besser, president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the biggest USA health philanthropy, said in a letter to the administration opposing the expansion of the plans. "This move is the lynchpin in Trump's plan to turn back the clock to the days when Americans with pre-existing conditions were left out in the cold and insurance companies could deny care at will or charge whatever they pleased".

Four major USA cities filed a lawsuit on Thursday contending that President Donald Trump's administration is unconstitutionally seeking to undermine Obamacare by failing to faithfully execute the healthcare law. "We make no representation that it's equivalent coverage".

Allowing short-term plans to last longer is the latest move to change regulations issued by the Obama administration. But the policies for individuals have no guarantees of coverage for existing medical conditions and come with limited benefits.

"These new short-term plans are nothing short of junk insurance and are so risky for Americans that it's no wonder not a single group representing patients, physicians, nurses or hospitals has voiced support", Schumer said in a statement. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., call them "junk plans".

During the Obama administration, health officials became concerned that, as premiums for ACA health plans were becoming more expensive, some people were starting to rely on these alternatives as an end-run around the comprehensive coverage the law was created to promote. Almost nine out of 10 plans sold on the marketplace are subsidized based on an individual's income.

Short-term plans have also been a source of headaches for enrollees.

The administration expects premiums for Obamacare plans to increase by 1% next year and by 5% in 2021 because of the shifts.

Short-term insurance policies go further than the association health plans in the ways they are exempt from parts of the 2010 health-care law that are meant to protect consumers from shoddy insurance that disadvantages consumers who need it most.

"For many who've got pre-existing conditions or who have other health worries, the Obamacare plans might be right for them", Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told "Fox & Friends" on Wednesday.

Administration officials say the short-term plans will provide a cheaper health insurance alternative for those who can't afford to buy coverage on the Obamacare exchanges.

One of the major issues is that President Trump has begun to allow individuals and companies to purchase health insurance coverage from markets not included within the Affordable Care Act. In April comments to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the insurer groups said that doing so could destabilize the individual market and cause premiums to rise for those who want comprehensive coverage. Ever since failing to totally repeal Obamacare, the Trump administration along with Republicans have taken steps to make it increasingly hard for the Affordable Care Act to function and to be affordable.

Anna Letsos, a 48-year-old consultant in Chicago, picked short-term insurance for herself and her family this year, instead of an Obamacare plan.

Short-term plans can also set annual and lifetime caps on benefits, and cover few prescription drugs.

In the lawsuit, the cities cite both the President's open promises to let Obamacare "implode" as well as his administration's actions to make that happen -from the termination of enrollment partnerships with hundreds of local and national groups, to abruptly ending subsidies to insurers, to scuttling efforts by Congress to pass a market stabilization bill, to the evisceration of the budget for outreach and in-person assisters. A recent study looked at short-term health plans sold in the Charlotte region and found that a lot of them didn't cover benefits for prescription drugs, mental health services, or substance use disorder treatment.

"It is not a silver bullet, but the rates are less", says Nolan, a Louisiana insurance broker.

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