Published: Sun, August 05, 2018
Health Care | By Oscar Goodwin

Trump's short-term health plans are cheaper but cover less

Trump's short-term health plans are cheaper but cover less

Because healthy people are most likely to bolt from the exchanges, expansion of short-term plans will increase federal spending on ACA premium subsidies by $28.2 billion over 10 years, the CMS estimated.

He cited a Health and Human Services Department study that said that average premiums for individual market insurance rose 105 percent from 2013 to 2107 under the Affordable Care Act.

The Trump administration took another whack at the Affordable Care Act on Wednesday.

"These policies are different from those offered on the exchange", said James Parker, a senior adviser for health reform at HHS, in a conference call with reporters.

The new plan will not require insurers to cover prescription drugs, mental health services, substance abuse treatment, maternity care or people with pre-existing conditions.

"They are discouraging Americans from enrolling in comprehensive plans that protect them against debilitating medical expenses".

The Congressional Budget Office, the nonpartisan research office that estimates the budget effects of policy proposals, gave a larger figure, estimating that about 2 million mostly healthy people will buy short-term plans.

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"The Administration's actions raise questions that go to the heart of our structure of government: whether the executive branch must 'take care that the laws be faithfully executed, ' U.S. Const. art. II, § 3, and whether the Constitution therefore prohibits the President and his appointees from wielding executive power to destroy a duly-enacted law", the complaint states. The IHC Group is an organization of insurance carriers headquartered in Stamford, Conn. "This will make a low-priced option like short-term insurance even more attractive, particularly if insurers further adapt their benefits and conditions of coverage to better align with the needs of the unsubsidized population".

The administration estimates that premiums for a short-term plan could be about one-third the cost of comprehensive coverage. But they may have higher out-of-pocket costs, as well as yearly or lifetime limits on coverage forbidden by the ACA.

But short-term insurance clearly has fewer benefits.

The plans do not have to meet Obamacare's baseline coverage minimums, so things like prescription drugs or maternity care may not be covered under these plans.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of NY says Democrats will "do everything in our power" to stop the Trump administration's expansion of short-term health insurance plans. A short-term plan might cost $160 a month or even less.

"Congress, the Administration, and the states should work to stabilize the individual market - not simply create a parallel market that works only for healthy people", wrote the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, a national federation of 36 independent Blue Cross and Blue Shield Plans. This will make short-term health plans easier and more affordable for patients to access, HHS says.

It also noted that the administration past year said it would halt so-called cost-sharing payments, which offset some out-of-pocket healthcare costs for low-income patients. While that allows the plans to have lower price tag - the average monthly premium for short-term health plans was $124 in 2016, compared to $393 for unsubsidized individual market plans - the coverage is less extensive.

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But that won't matter starting in January, when the penalty will disappear as a result of a tax overhaul that the Republican-led Congress adopted late past year.

Then candidate Trump throughout his campaign touted how Obamacare would be repealed and replaced with a much better health plan plus it would be cheaper.

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

HHS issued a final rule on short-term health plans August 1.

That is the central change the Trump administration is making now, allowing the plans to last up to 364 days and letting insurers renew them for as many as three years - a renewal that the ACA has forbidden.

"The broader availability and longer duration of slimmed-down policies that do not provide comprehensive coverage has the potential to harm consumers, both by making comprehensive coverage more expensive and by leaving some consumers unaware of the risks of these policies", said Senator Ron Wyden in a statement to Politico.

Brokers will likely be pushing the plans, as they often pay higher commissions than do ACA plans. The plans have limits on coverage. According to court filings, this directly violates a clause in the USA constitution, which states the president and their administration must "take care that the laws be faithfully executed".

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