Cities Sue Trump Admin, Claiming ACA 'Sabotage' Is Unconstitutional

Henrietta Brewer
August 6, 2018

Consumers paid more for fewer choices under the Affordable Care Act, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement. Since these plans are considerably more affordable, more people will be able to insure against medical catastrophes. "We make no representation that it's equivalent coverage". The plans have been a priority of President Trump, who says he wants consumers to have access to cheaper health insurance. As Bloomberg has reported, many short-term plan enrollees have been hit with unexpected costs and denied coverage when seeking benefits. Major insurer United Healthcare is marketing short-term plans.

Today the Trump administration issued a final rule allowing insurers to sell "short-term, limited-duration" health insurance policies that can last up to three years instead of the maximum allowable three months under current rules.

The Trump administration's approach is expected to please brokers and the insurers that offer the coverage.

Many of those people have been priced out of the health insurance market since the ACA took effect, says Joseph Antos, an economist at the American Enterprise Institute.

In the months since the idea surfaced, it has elicited a wall of opposition from the health insurance industry, hospitals and patient advocacy groups.

This meant if consumers missed the ACA open enrollment, their deductible would be reset four times before exchange coverage was available again, notes Kev Coleman, who heads research and data at health insurance comparison site HealthPocket.

During the Obama administration, health officials became concerned that, as premiums for ACA health plans were becoming more expensive, some people were starting to rely on these alternatives as an end-run around the comprehensive coverage the law was created to promote. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has estimated that an additional 1.6 million people may sign up for the plans once they become more widely available.

The new rules will require insurers to include clear explanations about what is covered, and to warn consumers that they do not have an automatic right to renew their policies when they expire. In June, the Labor Department issued rules that will make it easier for small companies to buy a type of insurance known as association health plans and, for the first time, allow them to be sold to people who are self-employed.

Officials are hoping short-term plans will fit the bill. Typically, they don't provide free preventative care or maternity, prescription drugs and mental health benefits.

They usually exclude coverage for critical health services that consumers have come to expect their policies to cover.

"They are discouraging Americans from enrolling in comprehensive plans that protect them against debilitating medical expenses".

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of NY says Democrats will "do everything in our power" to stop the Trump administration's expansion of short-term health insurance plans.

In a "stable" environment - in which the federal policies related to the ACA in 2018 remained in place in 2019 - the average monthly premium would have fallen by 4.3 percent in the coming year.

But that won't matter starting in January, when the penalty will disappear as a result of a tax overhaul that the Republican-led Congress adopted late past year.

Coleman says insurance benefits under short-term plans will be better with the three-month restriction gone. Also, 300,000 people who now buy individual market polices outside of the Obamacare exchanges will switch to short-term plans and another 100,000 uninsured folks will purchase them next year.

Since Congress failed to repeal the Affordable Care Act past year, President Donald Trump has attempted to weaken the program through eliminating protections, discouraging enrollment, and driving up costs, the lawsuit argues.

That is the central change the Trump administration is making now, allowing the plans to last up to 364 days and letting insurers renew them for as many as three years - a renewal that the ACA has forbidden.

"The broader availability and longer duration of slimmed-down policies that do not provide comprehensive coverage has the potential to harm consumers, both by making comprehensive coverage more expensive and by leaving some consumers unaware of the risks of these policies", said Justine Handelman of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, whose members are a mainstay of ACA coverage.

Already the vast majority of people who buy ACA coverage through federal or state exchanges qualify for premium subsidies.

Other reports by iNewsToday