Short-term health plans are cheap, but they’re no bargain
Trump administration officials recently touted new regulations they claimed would provide affordable health insurance coverage to millions of “forgotten” Americans who do not qualify for federal subsidies.
The administration extended existing 90-day short-term plans to 364 days (and with renewals, up to three years), and called these plans a good health coverage “choice.”
But let the buyer beware! This idea of affordable “choice” really means coverage that offers much less.
Short-term health plans under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) were originally designed as a stop-gap measure for an unexpected break in coverage, such as losing a job. Extending the duration of these short-term plans will not magically transform them into inexpensive yet comprehensive health coverage.
These plans are cheaper because they are exempt from federal consumer protection regulations. Health plans offering this new “choice” can avoid covering people with preexisting conditions, drop consumers if they get sick, and carve out essential benefits such as mental health counseling and maternity services. Consumers would likely be on the financial hook for their medical bills if they get sick, and all too often, this means that the doctors and hospitals that provide access to care may not get paid for their services.
New York Puts Consumers First
For a balance between cost and comprehensive coverage, we need look no further than New York. The Empire State’s robust health insurance marketplace, New York State of Health, gives consumers many options to purchase high-quality, comprehensive, and non-discriminatory health coverage at a reasonable cost.
New York’s gone one step further and banned the sale of these new, so-called “Trumpcare” plans to protect consumers from buying health coverage that won’t be there when they need it most. New York should and must go further on affordability, but that must be done in a way that balances affordability with quality medical coverage.
The Trump administration wants the public to believe that even a bad choice is better than no choice. However, health insurance worth paying for should at least provide peace of mind–it should promise that when you need care, you won’t get stuck with the bill.
That’s true in New York, but unfortunately, it does not hold true for most of the rest of the country.