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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: 266598

Reported Deaths: 5852
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto17807191
Hinds16967332
Harrison14298204
Rankin11280221
Jackson10976190
Lee9088145
Madison8619169
Jones6782118
Forrest6236124
Lauderdale6128192
Lowndes5564120
Lafayette5229101
Lamar507465
Washington4951125
Bolivar4149109
Oktibbeha409482
Panola388281
Pontotoc378560
Warren3698103
Monroe3693110
Marshall358570
Union357764
Pearl River3508106
Neshoba3499154
Leflore3122109
Lincoln307688
Hancock296362
Sunflower293075
Tate281162
Alcorn273554
Pike271081
Itawamba270063
Scott260849
Yazoo257156
Prentiss254554
Coahoma251555
Copiah250749
Tippah250150
Simpson243872
Leake238467
Marion225973
Grenada224272
Covington222473
Adams215371
Wayne215034
Winston207771
George204839
Newton200046
Attala197464
Tishomingo195661
Chickasaw189644
Jasper182538
Holmes172268
Clay167537
Tallahatchie157535
Stone152925
Clarke148662
Calhoun141822
Smith130726
Yalobusha123835
Walthall115037
Greene114529
Noxubee114126
Montgomery112736
Lawrence107617
Carroll106922
Perry105331
Amite102426
Webster97424
Claiborne89725
Tunica89321
Jefferson Davis88930
Benton86523
Humphreys84824
Kemper81020
Quitman7149
Franklin70717
Choctaw63813
Wilkinson59925
Jefferson57121
Sharkey45717
Issaquena1606
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 443009

Reported Deaths: 6662
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson649101007
Mobile31746574
Madison28413217
Tuscaloosa21566275
Montgomery20088332
Shelby19452132
Baldwin17333189
Lee13261107
Morgan12678142
Etowah12141181
Calhoun11555206
Marshall10487123
Houston9031164
Limestone838181
Cullman8296124
Elmore8243110
Lauderdale7946107
DeKalb7900107
St. Clair7876130
Talladega6523112
Walker6050183
Jackson603245
Colbert558194
Blount548586
Autauga540762
Coffee466964
Dale412785
Franklin377550
Russell358415
Chilton346873
Covington340880
Escambia339244
Tallapoosa3163109
Dallas313696
Chambers305470
Clarke303336
Pike265231
Lawrence255855
Marion254661
Winston234742
Bibb222948
Geneva213047
Marengo210531
Pickens200431
Hale186144
Barbour183438
Fayette178829
Butler174860
Cherokee166031
Henry160025
Monroe152621
Randolph146636
Washington142727
Clay130746
Crenshaw124845
Macon122837
Cleburne122125
Lamar120622
Lowndes116836
Wilcox108322
Bullock104628
Perry100518
Conecuh98022
Sumter90627
Greene77923
Coosa64018
Choctaw52124
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