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 4:28 PM
Updated: Feb 20, 2018 4:28 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.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1000163

Reported Deaths: 16309
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1347632106
Lake660041156
Allen57441793
Hamilton46100461
St. Joseph44109607
Elkhart35696507
Vanderburgh32087477
Tippecanoe27796257
Johnson24902443
Hendricks23738354
Porter22802362
Madison18614404
Clark18424250
Vigo17347301
Monroe15180197
LaPorte15046250
Delaware14984259
Howard14626287
Kosciusko12217147
Hancock11630175
Bartholomew11505179
Warrick11255189
Floyd11013214
Wayne10897250
Grant9964218
Morgan9404176
Boone8863116
Dubois8227130
Dearborn817093
Henry8139151
Noble7984106
Marshall7838134
Cass7499119
Lawrence7403170
Shelby7138114
Jackson694088
Gibson6533113
Harrison644491
Huntington633999
Knox6273106
DeKalb626397
Montgomery6208109
Miami589797
Putnam575377
Clinton570271
Whitley560455
Steuben554675
Wabash5279101
Jasper524475
Jefferson506996
Ripley495685
Adams476073
Daviess4616113
Scott435869
Greene422096
Wells420987
Clay420260
White415962
Decatur4133101
Fayette404286
Jennings385160
Posey375343
LaGrange353978
Washington353249
Randolph341999
Spencer337342
Fountain332558
Sullivan326752
Starke313369
Owen312070
Fulton306567
Orange291762
Jay280445
Perry264752
Franklin264042
Carroll259132
Rush258832
Vermillion255454
Parke230026
Pike227943
Tipton226659
Blackford190540
Pulaski181855
Crawford158623
Newton156048
Benton150217
Brown144547
Martin137419
Switzerland134211
Warren120516
Union106815
Ohio84112
Unassigned0538

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1499485

Reported Deaths: 23327
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1626291662
Cuyahoga1447662412
Hamilton1044761409
Montgomery731681240
Summit610421094
Lucas55643904
Butler51076707
Stark459431053
Lorain35141568
Warren32476369
Mahoning30315672
Clermont27930321
Lake26669434
Delaware23960162
Licking23547283
Trumbull22550552
Fairfield22179241
Greene22098311
Medina21763305
Clark19630349
Richland18342280
Portage17696247
Wood17244220
Allen15730269
Miami15355296
Muskingum14551174
Columbiana13756263
Wayne13585263
Tuscarawas12479298
Marion11797175
Scioto11388154
Pickaway11286141
Erie10676180
Ross10462196
Lawrence9663137
Hancock9546149
Ashtabula9479197
Belmont9133197
Geauga8829157
Jefferson8481191
Huron8229139
Union810756
Washington8031137
Sandusky7724145
Athens769572
Knox7606138
Darke7553151
Seneca7208144
Ashland6817125
Auglaize667896
Shelby6410111
Brown628582
Crawford6184130
Defiance6087102
Mercer608293
Fulton592996
Highland590099
Madison587576
Clinton576190
Logan574692
Guernsey572467
Preble5660121
Putnam5250108
Williams520184
Perry512561
Champaign505071
Jackson498770
Ottawa479086
Coshocton471582
Morrow451256
Pike430762
Fayette422160
Adams411587
Gallia411265
Hardin411076
Van Wert364078
Henry357871
Holmes3567122
Hocking352578
Wyandot317961
Carroll297059
Paulding275945
Meigs259249
Monroe212953
Noble196546
Morgan190832
Harrison178242
Vinton162624
Unassigned05
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The wonderful weather continues across the region Tuesday with our next chance of rain midweek.
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