Commentary

National experts assail Trump’s latest healthcare treachery

In case you missed it, the Trump administration has launched yet another outrageous attack on the Affordable Care Act today. Under the new proposed rule, the ACA ban on junk/sham health insurance policies would be, in effect, repealed. This is from an assessment by the experts at Families USA:

“The draft rule released by HHS allows insurance companies to sell sham insurance plans that do not cover essential health benefits or preexisting conditions, protections that are required under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). More specifically, the rule allows short-term, sham insurance plans, which currently may only be sold for a coverage period of 3 months, to be sold and marketed for up to 364 days. These sham plans can include fine print that, for example, would exclude coverage of asthma, diabetes, or cancer treatments, exclude critical services like pharmacy or maternity care, or include hidden limits, like covering only two days or no days of hospital care a year.”

Families USA executive director Frederick Isasi says the proposal would have disastrous consequences:

“The consumers who buy these plans won’t be the only ones harmed by the Trump administration rule. These sham plans are likely to cause the price of comprehensive coverage to escalate if healthier individuals and families exit the marketplace where comprehensive coverage is sold and instead buy these junk policies.”

Experts at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities were also highly critical:

“The proposed rule change would roll back 2016 regulations defining short-term plans as those lasting less than three months, defining them instead as those lasting less than one year. It will be open for public comment until April 23.

Because short-term plans offer less coverage and can deny coverage or charge higher prices to people with pre-existing conditions, they offer lower premiums for some healthy consumers than comprehensive plans that comply with the Affordable Care Act (ACA). As a number of groups representing both insurers (such as America’s Health Insurance Plans and the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association) and consumers (including CBPP) have warned: “If short-term plans are allowed to be sold as a long-term alternative to regular health insurance, they will attract healthier consumers away from the regular insurance risk pool and endanger people’s access to comprehensive coverage.”

Compounding the problem, the tax law enacted in December will, in 2019, end the ACA’s individual mandate that most people have health coverage or pay a penalty. This year, the mandate could provide some protection against the expansion of short-term plans because enrolling in one wouldn’t protect someone from having to pay the penalty during 2018. But next year, without the mandate, short-term plans would likely attract more enrollees.”

The center says the change will likely lead to higher premiums in the individual market, the demise of market reforms and access to comprehensive coverage in the individual market, and the exposure of more consumers to gaps and high costs.

The proposal will, in other words, continue the Trumpists’ nefarious effort to undermine a law that they could not muster the votes in Congress to repeal. As such, it is yet another perfect symbol for a dishonest, illegitimate, incompetent and utterly heartless presidency.

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