Charleston Gazette-Mail – Last Wednesday, the Trump administration issued new regulations that will expand the availability of “skimpy” short-term health plans. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services touted this move as an effort to give Americans more affordable health coverage options, but there is a reason that skimpy plans cost less — they don’t cover much of anything. Story link.
The Affordable Care Act required that health plans cover everyone, regardless of their pre-existing conditions, health status, gender and age. The ACA also mandated that plans cover all essential health benefits, including mental health, substance use treatment, and maternity services. Before the ACA, three in four health plans in the individual market did not cover delivery or maternity care. 45 percent of pre-ACA non-group plans did not cover substance use disorder services.
Short-term plans are not required to meet ACA standards. Traditionally, they have only been available to customers for up to three months, as an option for a person with a short-term gap in coverage. But the Trump administration’s expansion of short-term plans will allow individuals to purchase these plans, which do not cover pre-existing conditions or many essential services we have come to expect following the ACA’s passage, for as long as twelve months. And unfortunately, short-term plans can often be difficult for shoppers to distinguish from ACA-compliant plans (aside from the fact that they are not sold on healthcare.gov). They are not clearly identified, and many people don’t realize they’ve purchased these plans until they need something that it not covered. The availability of these plans for a full year will likely only exacerbate the confusion.
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