The Trump administration has finalized a rule to allow insurers to sell short-term health insurance plans for up to 12 months, a controversial move that has been criticized by the industry.
The Affordable Care Act has been under assault by the Trump administration for more than a year.
Under the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies are required to spend 80 to 85 percent of their premiums on health care or refund money to their customers. Coverage can now span less than a year, and extensions and renewals can last as long as three years, depending on what states decide. "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".
The short-term plan expansion is another step in Trump's plan to reshape the healthcare system without repealing Obamacare.
Justine Handelman, senior vice president for policy and representation at the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA), issued a separate statement prior to the rule's finalization saying it has the "potential to harm consumers" who do not have adequate information about the short-term plans. Such plans can be offered across state lines and are also designed for self-employed people. That would allow insurers to keep marketing the plans, instead of throwing the entire regulation into doubt. A short-term plan ran about $124 a month on average in the last quarter of 2016, while an unsubsidized ObamaCare plan averaged $393.
Only 106,000 people were on short-term health plans at the end of 2016, according to the administration. The plans are effectively banned in New York, New Jersey and MA, and several other states impose restrictions on them.
Ronnell Nolan, CEO of Health Agents of America, says she's happy her clients have a "viable option" now that the penalty for not having an ACA plan is being eliminated.
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The Trump administration says it's clearing the way for health insurers to sell short-term plans as a low-priced alternative to pricey Obama-law policies for people struggling with high premiums.
Short-term, limited-duration insurance in the past has been aimed mainly at people who are between jobs or have other short-term needs, but the Trump administration said it wants to give consumers more choices in the individual market risk pools. These plans won't have to cover as many medical services and are exempt from covering people with pre-existing conditions. Typically, they don't provide free preventative care or maternity, prescription drugs and mental health benefits. "When I was in the [Obama] administration no one asked me if some law passed by Gerald Ford or Lyndon Johnson or Richard Nixon, was something I wanted to enforce". Letsos received a mammogram in February, thinking the bill for the test would be picked up by her insurer, National General Accident & Health.
Federal health officials say the plans can last for up to 12 months and may be renewed for up to 36 months.
Short-term plans are less expensive because, unlike their ACA counterparts, which cannot bar people with preexisting health conditions, insurers selling these policies can be choosy - rejecting people with illnesses or limiting their coverage.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
These plans would likely have lower premiums, but they would also provide fewer benefits - which could leave sicker and older workers out in the cold.
The new rules will require insurers to include clear explanations about what is covered, and to warn consumers that they do not have an automatic right to renew their policies when they expire.
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"It's very much buyer beware".
Also, short-term plans don't have to offer comprehensive coverage. Scott Smith, 59, lives in Cornelius, North Carolina, near Charlotte.
The plans, which have been available for years and were originally created to fill a temporary gap in coverage, will likely be cheaper than Obamacare policies.
Smith was rejected after the insurer found out he had a skin cancer lesion removed years ago, and made a decision to go without insurance.
Andy Slavitt, former acting administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services under former President Obama, said insurers have pulled out of the marketplace as a result of the Trump administration's refusal to guarantee monthly subsidy payments. That would likely drive up premiums for those on other plans.
"Do we just take some junk plan and put up with that?"
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