Trump’s New Obamacare Sabotage Could Really Stick It To Consumers

BOSTON ― The Trump administration’s new attack on Obamacare will expose consumers to surprise, sometimes staggering medical bills.

Just ask some of the state officials who deal with these kinds of issues every day.

They are part of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, which happens to be meeting in Boston this weekend, days after the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) finalized new rules for “short-term, limited-duration” insurance policies.

These plans, which insurers have sold for decades, are supposed to provide minimal, temporary assistance for people with brief gaps in coverage. For that reason, they are not subject to the Affordable Care Act’s regulations. Short-term policies do not have to cover mental health care, prescriptions, or other services that the 2010 health care law calls essential. And insurers don’t have to sell these policies to people who have pre-existing medical conditions.

The Affordable Care Act didn’t legislate short-term plans out of existence, but it allowed the federal government to regulate them aggressively. The Obama administration did just that, issuing rules that limited the plans to durations of no more than three months.

Obama officials also decided that short-term plans wouldn’t count toward the individual mandate, meaning that people who bought those plans would owe a financial penalty for not having comprehensive coverage.

Now the Trump administration has undone all of that.

Under the new rules that HHS released last week, insurers can go back to selling short-term plans that last for (nearly) one year and, in a new twist, they’ll be able to let consumers renew those plans twice. If insurers decide to offer such policies, consumers could then hold “short term” coverage for what basically works out to three years. They wouldn’t even have to worry about the individual mandate, because, thanks to the GOP tax bill that Trump signed late last year, the penalty falls to zero in 2019.

All of this is likely to make short-term coverage an attractive option for people healthy enough to qualify for it. Because the policies don’t pay for many expensive services and because the policies aren’t available to the people most likely to run up large bills, the premiums are a lot lower than the premiums for comprehensive coverage ― a fact that the Trump administration highlighted this week as it touted the new regulations.

“What we are doing is bringing cheap and more affordable options to individuals who are trapped under the Affordable Care Act with insurance that is actually not affordable or not available or doesn’t deliver them hospitals and doctors that they need,” HHS Secretary Alex Azar said during a Fox Business News appearance last week.

Short-Term Coverage Can Be A Hazard For Consumers But state insurance officials like Jessica Altman, who is insurance commissioner in Pennsylvania, say the administration isn’t telling the public or would-be buyers the whole story about what the policies will cover ― and, more importantly, what they will not cover.

Via: Huff Post

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