Aug. 1, 2018

Health Care Sabotage: Final Rule Lets Insurers Offer Junk Plans That Can Discriminate Against Patients and Provide Minimal Benefits

Statement of Eagan Kemp, Health Care Policy Advocate, Public Citizen’s Congress Watch Division

Note: The Trump administration’s “junk plan” rule, finalized today, would expand short-term health care plans, allowing them to be offered for up to 36 months versus the current 90-day maximum. These inadequate plans are allowed to skirt Affordable Care Act (ACA) requirements, thus allowing insurers to deny coverage for pre-existing conditions and set annual and lifetime caps on benefits. A recent survey found that nine in 10 Americans believe that it is important for current protections for people with pre-existing conditions to remain in place. Additionally, few short-term plans cover prescriptions, and nearly all lack coverage for maternity care, preventive care, substance abuse treatment and mental health.

The Trump administration is continuing to sabotage health care in America, this time by finalizing an ill-conceived rule on short-term health plans. By allowing the sale of plans that are not required to meet the standards of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and offering only the illusion of coverage, more Americans will face unmet health care needs.

Many may face medical debt or bankruptcy when they get sick and their junk plans do not cover the care they need or place unreasonable limits on the services they can receive. Under this rule, unethical insurers will have every incentive to deceive consumers through issuing these poorly regulated plans and abandoning consumers when they need care most.

Allowing the sale of junk plans further destabilizes the ACA marketplaces by allowing insurers to offer cheap plans targeting the young and healthy. As these consumers leave the exchanges, only the sick will remain covered under plans with full ACA protections, driving up the costs of those plans and making them more unaffordable.