Short-term health plans work... but they aren't for everyone

Michael Haynes used to have an Obamacare plan for himself and his family, but it was never the right fit. Th...

Posted: Aug 5, 2018 10:46 AM
Updated: Aug 5, 2018 10:46 AM

Michael Haynes used to have an Obamacare plan for himself and his family, but it was never the right fit. The premiums kept rising, and this year, he decided the policy was not worth the $1,830 monthly price.

So the retired small business owner from Yellville, Arkansas, opted to buy a short-term health plan, which covers far less but costs around $280 a month. He had to pay $150 for his young twin daughters to see the doctor when they had colds, but that wasn't a problem because the premiums were so much lower.

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"When you're saving $18,000 a year, it pays for a lot of out-of-pocket expenses," said Haynes, 54, who says he has had an "excellent experience" with his short-term plan, but still would like the security and low co-pays that come with a more robust policy.

Soon it will be easier for Haynes and other Americans to buy short-term policies. The Trump administration unveiled a final rule last week that will allow insurers to sell these policies for just under a year, rather than the current 90-day limit. They can also be renewed for up to 36 months.

Administration officials say these plans are designed for people who are being priced out of the individual market, like Haynes. But patient advocates and health policy experts argue short-term policies are "junk plans" that offer very skimpy coverage and will ultimately lead to much higher costs for consumer who need care.

Readers told CNN about their experiences with short-term health plans. The reactions were decidedly mixed. Overall, the plans seemed to work for those who were relatively healthy, but were problematic for those who used more health care services.

Those who saved money on premiums, though, had to give some of it back at tax time. Americans who have short-term plans are not considered insured and are still subject to the individual mandate penalty. (That won't be an issue starting in 2019 because Congress eliminated the penalty for not having coverage.)

Dan Mulherin is not so enamored of short-term plans. He bought one for his son, Oliver, then 20, last fall after his son lost his Obamacare coverage due to a missed premium payment. The policy, which cost $500 for three months, didn't cover Oliver's doctor's bill and paid only $200 for his prescription drug, forcing Mulherin to shell out an additional $300 to buy the rest.

"The insurance from the short-term policy was basically worthless," said Mulherin, 67, a Long Beach, California, resident whose son once again has an Obamacare plan.

Americans who've had short-term plans say it's very important that people read the fine print of their policy and understand what's covered and what isn't. The Trump administration is requiring that plans include notices saying their benefits may be more limited than Obamacare's.

Margot Anthony got pregnant with her second child last year while on a short-term plan. Unlike Obamacare, the plan didn't provide maternity benefits. The family had purchased the coverage after Anthony's husband left his job, which had provided them with health insurance. The short-term plan was about $800 less a month than an Obamacare policy.

The Littleton, Colorado, resident turned to a lower-cost midwife, which she said she was hesitant to do at first, but it worked out great. Also, the plan picked up most of the cost of treatment when her then 3-year-old son fell and broke his arm. Still, she noted she did have to fill out a lot of paperwork showing that the boy hadn't engaged in any risky behavior, including playing in organized sports.

Anthony is back on an employer plan now that her husband has a new job. She thought her short-term policy was worth it, but she's glad she now has coverage to take her sons to the doctor for physicals.

"It's much better to have a full-coverage policy," said Anthony, 29. "If you want to go get your kids checked out, you can't do that on a short-term policy. But there are those who can't pay hundreds of dollars for that every month."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 319381

Reported Deaths: 7354
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto22264265
Hinds20634421
Harrison18381316
Rankin13862282
Jackson13677248
Madison10234224
Lee10050176
Jones8458167
Forrest7821153
Lauderdale7257242
Lowndes6498149
Lamar633688
Lafayette6298120
Washington5418136
Bolivar4835133
Panola4663110
Oktibbeha466098
Pearl River4597146
Marshall4572105
Warren4440121
Pontotoc424973
Monroe4155135
Union415576
Neshoba4059179
Lincoln4007111
Hancock386087
Leflore3515125
Tate342386
Sunflower339391
Pike3366110
Alcorn324172
Scott319374
Yazoo314171
Itawamba305077
Adams304885
Copiah299766
Coahoma298383
Simpson298189
Tippah291568
Prentiss283561
Leake271774
Marion271280
Covington267083
Wayne264442
Grenada264087
George251951
Newton248563
Tishomingo231267
Winston229981
Jasper222148
Attala215073
Chickasaw210459
Holmes190374
Clay187554
Stone187433
Tallahatchie180041
Clarke178980
Calhoun174032
Yalobusha167840
Smith164034
Walthall135247
Greene131833
Lawrence131024
Montgomery128643
Noxubee127934
Perry126638
Amite126142
Carroll122330
Webster115032
Tunica108027
Jefferson Davis107833
Claiborne103030
Benton102325
Humphreys97533
Kemper96628
Franklin85023
Quitman81816
Choctaw79018
Wilkinson69332
Jefferson66228
Sharkey50917
Issaquena1696
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 547873

Reported Deaths: 11274
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson809141565
Mobile41984826
Madison35629523
Tuscaloosa26147458
Shelby25580254
Montgomery25075611
Baldwin21805313
Lee16248175
Calhoun14710325
Morgan14618285
Etowah14160362
Marshall12446230
Houston10757288
Elmore10292212
Limestone10179157
St. Clair10155250
Cullman9928200
Lauderdale9591248
DeKalb8963189
Talladega8455184
Walker7330280
Autauga7229113
Blount6937139
Jackson6905113
Colbert6406139
Coffee5622126
Dale4929114
Russell454541
Chilton4470116
Franklin430783
Covington4267122
Tallapoosa4127154
Escambia401180
Chambers3723123
Dallas3606156
Clarke352861
Marion3237106
Pike313978
Lawrence3124100
Winston283272
Bibb267664
Geneva257081
Marengo250665
Pickens236662
Barbour234559
Hale226678
Butler223771
Fayette217762
Henry193743
Cherokee187245
Randolph186944
Monroe179141
Washington170439
Macon162951
Clay160159
Crenshaw155157
Cleburne153144
Lamar146237
Lowndes142053
Wilcox127030
Bullock124242
Conecuh113230
Coosa111429
Perry108726
Sumter105732
Greene93434
Choctaw61725
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