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.

Cases: 312608

Reported Deaths: 7221
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto21429257
Hinds20256414
Harrison17776308
Rankin13539278
Jackson13395246
Madison10051217
Lee9956173
Jones8364163
Forrest7633152
Lauderdale7215240
Lowndes6359144
Lamar620286
Lafayette6162118
Washington5320133
Bolivar4796132
Oktibbeha460398
Panola4545104
Pearl River4495145
Marshall4387103
Warren4368120
Pontotoc419372
Monroe4089133
Union408776
Neshoba4028176
Lincoln3939110
Hancock376686
Leflore3484125
Sunflower335290
Tate331684
Pike3290105
Scott314873
Alcorn310768
Yazoo310269
Itawamba299377
Copiah295865
Coahoma293979
Simpson293788
Tippah287268
Prentiss278560
Marion268680
Leake264973
Wayne262241
Grenada259985
Adams259882
Covington256281
Newton246961
George246748
Winston226981
Tishomingo225067
Jasper220748
Attala214273
Chickasaw207057
Holmes188672
Clay184654
Stone181433
Clarke178179
Tallahatchie177840
Calhoun169532
Yalobusha162936
Smith162034
Walthall133745
Greene130233
Lawrence128223
Noxubee126834
Montgomery126742
Perry126038
Amite123442
Carroll121628
Webster114532
Jefferson Davis106932
Tunica104626
Claiborne102130
Benton99025
Humphreys96133
Kemper95628
Franklin83323
Quitman79616
Choctaw75818
Wilkinson66830
Jefferson65428
Sharkey50217
Issaquena1686
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 528784

Reported Deaths: 10913
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson762251516
Mobile40864804
Madison34569501
Tuscaloosa25646451
Montgomery24264585
Shelby23355246
Baldwin20993306
Lee15800168
Calhoun14457312
Morgan14250279
Etowah13796352
Marshall12166222
Houston10506280
Elmore10017205
Limestone9935150
Cullman9617193
St. Clair9584237
Lauderdale9397238
DeKalb8813185
Talladega8183175
Walker7205279
Autauga6910107
Jackson6793110
Blount6621135
Colbert6282134
Coffee5491115
Dale4810111
Russell437938
Chilton4244111
Franklin423882
Covington4105117
Tallapoosa4004150
Escambia392675
Chambers3545123
Dallas3536150
Clarke350360
Marion3092100
Pike309177
Lawrence299698
Winston273572
Bibb259763
Marengo248564
Geneva247075
Pickens233559
Barbour230256
Hale221776
Butler215469
Fayette211962
Henry188544
Cherokee183845
Randolph179241
Monroe176240
Washington166839
Macon158649
Clay153356
Crenshaw151657
Cleburne148341
Lamar141234
Lowndes138453
Wilcox126528
Bullock122941
Conecuh110028
Perry107526
Coosa106828
Sumter104132
Greene92234
Choctaw60324
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