Partial-Coverage Health Plans to Get Gov't Boost

By Yasmeen Abutaleb and Caroline Humer

The Trump administration would allow people to purchase these plans for up to 12 months rather than the three months under the Obama administration. The new rules stem from an executive order President Donald Trump signed in October aimed at boosting competition, giving consumers more choices and lowering premiums.

"It's one step in the direction of providing Americans with health insurance options that are both more affordable and more suited to individual and family circumstances", Azar said of the proposed regulation.

The plans are normally supposed to cover a brief lapse in coverage, but the order makes it easier to rely on them as primary insurance.

The administration, in the proposed rule announced Tuesday, said the short-term plans may lack some Obamacare protections such as required coverage of pre-existing conditions, and coverage for a broad array of services such as maternity care, hospital stays and prescription drugs.

When Trump administration's senior HHS staff unveiled a draft rule this week that would expand the sale of cheap, skimpy, short-term health plans, they described it as a "lifeline" for the now uninsured, and insisted the rule change won't destabilize Obamacare's individual market.

In a press call, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said the regulation change would expand coverage options available to consumers, adding that "affordable options have disappeared for an increasing number of Americans". Critics say that making such plans widely available would bifurcate the market, making premiums unaffordable for older and sicker patients who need conventional full-coverage plans.

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It's a move that the Trump administration and the Department of Health and Human Services say will give people "more options" when it comes to their health care access. They can also impose annual or lifetime limits, meaning they may only pay out a set amount - often $1 million or less - leaving the policyholder on the hook for the rest. The administration is proposing to expand access to short-term health plans, which is meant to fill temporary gaps in coverage and provide some consumers with cheaper options because the plan's coverage is limited.

The Trump administration, however, offered that key stakeholders, such as state regulators, have raised concerns that the three-month limit could harm consumers and have little positive impact on risk pools in the long term.

Most require applicants to pass a medical questionnaire - and they can also exclude coverage for preexisting medical conditions. The most successful attempt this country ever made at catching up with the rest of the industrialized world and the primary policy goal of conservative Republicanism is to gut it and return us all to the status quo ante. This is a commitment not to improve health care for Americans, but to make the lives of the poor and sick miserable because (I believe) too many conservatives have a theological objection to allowing the government to help them. "Widespread marketing of these bare bones, junk plans will further destabilize health insurance markets and will lead to higher premiums for everyone".

Levitt says the plans may not be appealing to much of the now uninsured population, more than half of whom could qualify for free or heavily subsidized plans in the ACA market. Only a small percentage of people pay higher premiums without assistance. CMS Administrator Seema Verma said repeatedly that the rule is aimed squarely at the 28 million people in the country who remain uninsured, the "healthy people sitting on the sidelines without coverage".

Those with short-term policies are not considered insured under the Affordable Care Act and are subject to the penalty for not having coverage. He said he'd provide 'great health care for a fraction of the price.' Yet, his administration is giving insurance companies the green light to sell sham insurance to vulnerable families.

The proposed regulations are the latest step in the Trump administration's quest to weaken Obamacare.

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