Short-Term Health Plans Will Gut Consumer Protections & Increase Poverty. It’s Time to Scrap Them.

Everyone should have access to high-quality, affordable health care coverage.

Everyone should have access to high-quality, affordable health care coverage.

Health insurance helps people stay both financially and physically healthy — and thus go to work, contribute to their communities, and raise their families.

Thankfully, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has made healthcare better for virtually everyone in this country. By both expanding access to coverage and introducing a number of consumer protections into our health system, the ACA has helped ensure that millions of people have insurance that actually meets their health needs and doesn’t leave them vulnerable to financial disaster if an emergency hits. And, as research has shown, this has all added up to fewer people living in or on the brink of poverty.

Yet after failing to completely eliminate the ACA through the legislative process, the Trump Administration is trying to undermine this progress through executive power.

Earlier this year, for instance, the administration proposed a federal rule that would expand the sale of short-term health plans, also known as “short-term limited-duration insurance.” Just the latest chapter in the Trump Administration’s campaign to sabotage our healthcare system, the rule is a backdoor attempt to gut many of the key consumer protections ushered in by the ACA.

Short-term plans are junk — and threaten to increase poverty.

Short-term plans, which currently provide coverage for typically 3–6 months and are not renewable, typically exclude coverage of pre-existing conditions, limit the dollar amount of benefits that a person can receive from the plan, and omit many of the essential health benefits that the ACA requires plans to cover — including maternity care, prescription drugs, mental health treatment, and substance-use disorder services. Some won’t even cover you if you get sick on the weekend.

These plans were designed to fill temporary gaps in coverage — such as when a consumer is between jobs or while in a waiting period for coverage through their employer — but they were not intended to replace quality health coverage.

Yet that is precisely what the Trump Administration is trying to do. And a broad scale expansion of short-term health plans would directly threaten the quality of coverage for millions of people throughout the country, taking us back to the days when consumers lacked key protections and were left with tens of thousands of dollars in debt for getting the care they need. Not only that — by enticing younger, healthier patients to leave the individual marketplace, these plans will also cause premiums to soar for everyone else.

In face of the Trump Administration’s campaign to sabotage the ACA, state governments can protect their residents from junk insurance plans.

In Illinois, healthcare advocates, providers, and consumers are advancing SB2388 SFA1 — which would, among other things, limit the duration of short-term plans in Illinois, maintain all the consumer protections already enshrined in state law, and require insurance companies to include clear warning disclosures in sales and marketing materials targeted at consumers.

Illinois isn’t the only state working to combat short-term junk plans. Several states already limit the sale of them, while a handful of others are considering similar measures to protect access to healthcare from the Trump Administration’s sabotage campaign.

Now more than ever, state advocacy matters in the fight to protect our healthcare.

As we combat the Trump Administration’s harmful health agenda at the federal level, state-level advocacy can be a key avenue through which to protect the historic progress ushered in by the ACA.

Advocates, providers, consumers, and lawmakers must continue standing up against the Trump Administration’s cruel health agenda. The physical and financial well-being of millions of people depends upon it.

[UPDATE: HB 2624, SA 3 has passed out of both chambers and awaits Governor Rauner’s signature.]

Trevor Brown contributed to this blog.

About the Author

Stephani Becker
Stephani Becker
Stephani Becker
Associate Director of Healthcare Justice

312.789.4482

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Healthcare is a human right. The high cost of care means millions of families have no access to the critical care all human beings deserve.

Everyone deserves access to affordable, comprehensive healthcare no matter their income, race, gender, or where they're from.

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