Trump administration unveils alternative to Obamacare

Americans will soon have one more alternative to Obamacare, thanks to the Trump administration.Officials Tuesd...

Posted: Feb 20, 2018 3:28 PM
Updated: Feb 20, 2018 3:28 PM

Americans will soon have one more alternative to Obamacare, thanks to the Trump administration.

Officials Tuesday proposed regulations that will make it easier to obtain coverage through short-term health insurance plans -- which don't have to adhere to the Affordable Care Act's consumer protections -- by allowing insurers to sell policies that last just under a year. 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.

"Americans need more choices in health insurance so they can find coverage that meets their needs," said Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. "The status quo is failing too many Americans who face skyrocketing costs and fewer and fewer choices. The Trump Administration is taking action so individuals and families have access to quality, affordable healthcare that works for them."

The proposal would reverse an Obama administration decision to limit the duration of short-term health plans to no more than 90 days in order to make them less attractive.

Such plans could roil the Obamacare market, drawing healthier consumers away from the exchanges and pushing up the premiums for those who remain.

Short-term health plans, which have been available for years and were originally designed to fill a temporary gap in coverage, are likely to be cheaper than Obamacare policies. But that's because they are allowed to exclude those with pre-existing conditions and base rates on an applicant's medical history, unlike plans sold on the Obamacare exchanges.

Also, short-term plans don't have to offer comprehensive coverage. Typically, they don't provide free preventative care or maternity, prescription drugs and mental health benefits. 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. And, unlike Obamacare policies, they don't have to cap consumers' cost-sharing burden at $7,350 for 2018.

"These proposed short-term plans would actually be long-term scams," said Brad Woodhouse, director of the Protect Our Care campaign, which supports Obamacare. "The Trump Administration wants to let insurance companies sell skimpy plans to unwitting Americans and then leave them holding the bill if they get sick or hurt. And if you're among the one in four Americans who has a pre-existing condition, today's news is especially bad: These skimpy plans will once again allow insurers to discriminate against you based on your medical history."

Related: Despite Trump's attacks, Obamacare sign-ups dip only slightly

Young and healthy folks may like these plans because they come with lower monthly premiums. But those who actually need care could find themselves having to pay more out of pocket for treatment and medications. In fact, some consumers with these plans have complained that they've been hit with unexpected expenses.

Also, insurers aren't required to renew the policies so those who become sick could find themselves unable to sign up again for the same plan.

"People who buy short-term policies today in order to reduce their monthly premiums take a risk that, if they do need medical care, they could be left with uncovered bills and/or find themselves uninsurable under such plans in the future," wrote Karen Pollitz, senior fellow at the Kaiser Family Foundation, in a recent policy brief.

Have you ever had a short-term insurance policy? What was your experience? Tell us about it here.

Consumers today can find short-term plans that cost as little as 20% of the least expensive Obamacare plan, according to Pollitz.

In its announcement about the proposed rules, the Trump administration said short-term policies are designed to fill a temporary gap in coverage. It will require insurers to notify consumers that the plans are not required to comply with all of Obamacare's mandates, saying they were committed to making sure people understand the policies' limitations.

Trump officials countered concerns that these plans could leave policyholders vulnerable by saying that they will provide more options to people, particularly the 28 million Americans who are now uninsured. On a conference call with reporters, they repeatedly said that many consumers had only one choice of insurer in their Obamacare market and that premiums had skyrocketed since the exchanges opened in 2014.

"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.

Related: Trump officials unveil rule that could chip away at Obamacare

Administration officials also pushed back on concerns that extending short-term plans' duration will hurt the Affordable Care Act market, pointing to an independent actuary's estimate that only up to 200,000 healthy Obamacare enrollees will switch to short-term plans.

The administration will accept comments on the proposed rule for the next 60 days. It is seeking input on whether these plans should be available for more than 12 months and on which options consumer should have if they want to renew their 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. But this will not be an issue after this year since Congress effectively eliminated the individual mandate -- which requires nearly all Americans to be insured or pay a penalty -- starting in 2019 as part of its tax overhaul bill.

The proposed regulations are the latest step in the Trump administration's quest to weaken Obamacare. Last month, officials unveiled a proposed rule that would make it easier for small businesses -- and some self-employed folks -- to band together and buy health insurance. That proposal also stemmed from Trump's executive order and is designed to broaden access to what are known as association health plans.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 110592

Reported Deaths: 3171
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds7731171
DeSoto655177
Harrison478481
Jackson429178
Rankin380086
Madison371092
Lee339279
Forrest292777
Jones281682
Washington250697
Lafayette241342
Lauderdale2329130
Lamar212038
Bolivar197775
Oktibbeha194154
Neshoba1795111
Lowndes173662
Panola164736
Leflore158786
Sunflower156749
Warren151854
Monroe143672
Pontotoc143019
Pike135555
Lincoln133954
Copiah133336
Marshall130026
Coahoma122836
Scott122729
Grenada119637
Simpson117648
Yazoo116933
Union113825
Holmes113060
Tate112339
Leake111839
Itawamba108724
Pearl River107456
Adams104042
Prentiss100919
Wayne97921
Alcorn94412
George93217
Marion92642
Covington90825
Tippah84820
Newton84227
Chickasaw81724
Tallahatchie81725
Winston81421
Tishomingo78640
Hancock76527
Attala76325
Clarke70948
Clay66621
Jasper66016
Walthall63427
Calhoun60912
Noxubee59516
Smith57716
Claiborne53016
Montgomery52723
Tunica51817
Lawrence48914
Yalobusha47914
Perry47522
Carroll45812
Greene44717
Stone44614
Amite41513
Quitman4096
Humphreys39916
Jefferson Davis39311
Webster36313
Wilkinson32920
Kemper31615
Benton3004
Sharkey27714
Jefferson26210
Franklin2283
Choctaw2036
Issaquena1063
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 152272

Reported Deaths: 2621
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson22300372
Mobile14273314
Tuscaloosa9886132
Montgomery9615196
Madison895192
Shelby700260
Lee643066
Baldwin636967
Marshall425348
Calhoun408459
Etowah399149
Morgan393232
Houston362332
DeKalb313326
Elmore308152
St. Clair276742
Limestone268327
Walker264192
Talladega253634
Cullman223923
Lauderdale204340
Autauga198928
Franklin198131
Jackson197914
Russell18993
Colbert188927
Dallas184527
Blount182723
Chilton178731
Escambia170328
Covington164429
Coffee16299
Dale161551
Pike130112
Tallapoosa126986
Chambers126643
Clarke126116
Marion103929
Butler99640
Barbour9819
Marengo96421
Winston88613
Geneva8297
Pickens79317
Randolph79314
Lawrence78830
Bibb78513
Hale73729
Cherokee71414
Clay70312
Lowndes69827
Bullock63417
Henry6286
Monroe6259
Washington62012
Crenshaw58830
Perry5796
Conecuh55413
Wilcox55412
Fayette54012
Macon52819
Cleburne5207
Sumter46421
Lamar4555
Choctaw38612
Greene33316
Coosa1963
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