Medicine

Consumers getting more options for short-term health plans

Consumers getting more options for short-term health plans

There has been a huge and utterly predictable outcry over the Trump administration's move to ensure that cheaper health insurance policies are available to the appropriate customers.

OBAMACARE ALTERNATIVE Loosening limits on short-term health plans is just one of several ways the Trump administration is pushing to weaken Obamacare. However, short-term insurers will be allowed to raise rates each year.

The latest attempt to damage Obamacare came Wednesday, when the White House announced offerings of short-term health care 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. This will make short-term health plans easier and more affordable for patients to access, HHS says.

But patient advocates and health policy experts argue that these policies provide only skimpy coverage and will undermine the Affordable Care Act.

"To restore these to 364 days - as originally drafted - is exactly what we are looking for", said Jan Dubauskas, general counsel for the IHC Group, speaking before the final rule was released. CMS said the average short-term plan cost $124 a month in 2016 versus roughly $400 a month for an Obamacare plan. And there's no federal guarantee short-term coverage can be renewed. And insurance companies can deny customers coverage on these plans if they have a pre-existing medical condition and charge people more if they are likely to need medical care. Tell us about it here.

The administration estimates that premiums for a short-term plan could be about one-third the cost of comprehensive coverage. Typically, they don't provide free preventative care or maternity, prescription drugs and mental health benefits. They include more than 210,000 in Oregon.

Short-term plans are cheaper than ACA plans.

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. Even worse, not having it at all and forgoing preventive care as well as needed prescriptions and treatment? In fact, some consumers with these plans have complained that they've been hit with unexpected expenses. Three-quarters of respondents to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll said it is "very important" that Obamacare's rule prohibiting insurers from denying coverage due to a person's medical history remains law, while almost that many feel the same way about banning insurers from charging sick people higher rates.

Short-term plans have been a niche product for people in life transitions: those switching jobs, retiring before Medicare eligibility or aging out of parental coverage.

US unemployment rate falls to 3.9 per cent as hiring slows
Faucher writes that as that happens, job growth will slow down because businesses will find it more hard to recruit new hires. Businesses are adding more hours for part-timers and converting contractors to full-time workers.

A major insurer group expressed strong concerns.

Schumer said Democrats will introduce a resolution to rescind the rule using the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to revoke an administration regulation with a simple majority any time up to 60 legislative days after it is published in the Federal Register.

"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.

That same report expects premiums for ACA plans to increase 15 percent next year, in part because many consumers may be less likely to buy coverage without the threat of a tax penalty.

The plans don't have to comply with Affordable Care Act rules including: coverage of essential benefits; prohibition against medical underwriting; limits on premium variations based on age, sex or health status; elimination of annual and lifetime benefit caps; annual limits on out-of-pocket costs; and the requirement that plans spend no more than 20% of premiums on administrative costs and profit.

"We make no representation that it's equivalent coverage", Parker said. "These may be a good choice for individuals, but they may also not be the right choice for everybody".

By drawing younger or healthier consumers out of the ACA marketplace, the short-term plan expansion will add up to a 1.7 percent increase to premiums next year, according to the industry lobbying group America's Health Insurance Plans.

Four major US 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.

Such health plans have long existed, and their idea was to provide temporary coverage for people who are between jobs or have other brief need for low-priced insurance.