Trump rule change to short-term health insurance draws health care industry concern

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The Hospital and Health System Association of Pennsylvania warns consumers to “read the fine print” before changing over to short-term, high deductible health insurance.

Those plans are now available for people to use for up to three years, following a Trump administration change to an Obama-era rule.

The low-premium insurance may draw people away from insurance on the Affordable Care Act marketplace, said Jolene Calla, vice president of health care finance and insurance at the association, which lobbies for the health care industry. However, those short-term plans aren’t designed to be used for more than a few months and lack much of what people would expect to be covered. 

They often don’t cover common screenings and procedures, and they’re not required to cover them the way ACA or group plans are, Calla said. For example, a woman on a short-term, high-deductible plan may not have access to basic breast cancer screenings, or to the treatments that would be needed if she had breast cancer. 

“And if you don’t read the fine print you could end up in a situation where at the worst possible time you find out you don’t have the protection or coverage you thought you had,” Calla said. 

The Pensnylvania Department of Insurance has also looked at the short-term, high-deductible plans, said Chief of Staff Alison Beam. The plans can be useful for someone transitioning out of college or from one job to another, but when compared to major medical coverage, they’re “thoroughly inadequate,” Beam said.

The rule change adds another concern for those using Pennsylvania’s ACA marketplace, Beam said. If a lot of young, healthy people drop ACA coverage in favor of the cheaper short-term, high-deductible plans, it could drive up premiums in 2020.   

GOP State Representative Seth Grove praised the rule change. “There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to health coverage,” Grove said in a statement. “This rule change gives consumers, who know what’s best for them and their families, more freedom over their own health care through more options.”

Vince Phillips lobbied for health insurance agents for 19 years. It’s true that the short-term plans offer limited coverage, Phillips said. However, ACA plans are too expensive for some people.

“What Trump is doing is saying, if you are in the lower middle class, you need something you can actually pay for,” Phillips said. 

Calla said the Hospital and Health System Association plans to work with the Department of Insurance to raise awareness about low-cost alternatives to short-term, high-deductible plans.