Short-term health insurance is sometimes scoffed at as “sham insurance.” But to those who turn to it in need, this kind of insurance offers vital protection from unexpected medical costs. The Trump administration’s plan to extend how long it lasts makes sense.

Short-term plans offer temporary coverage for many of the same things standard health plans do. They don’t, however, cover things like preventive care, maternity care, or pre-existing medical conditions. Short-term plans do not meet the coverage requirements of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), but they have long offered a meaningful measure of protection to people who need to fill a gap in health insurance coverage.

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Here’s what the Department of Health and Human Services could do:

  • Relax rules so companies of all sizes can take advantage of HRAs. Medium-sized and large employers want the same option of setting up HRAs for workers to buy ACA coverage, said Chris Condeluci, who worked on the ACA as a Senate GOP staff attorney.
  • Now that the individual mandate has been repealed, the administration could open the door for companies “to provide funds to buy noncompliant coverage,” said Gary Claxton, a vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation.

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The Trump administration moved on Tuesday to deliver affordable health care to millions of Americans with a proposed rule that would expand the availability of short-term, limited duration plans to one year.

The rule comes as a result of the president’s executive order calling on federal agencies to take the necessary measures to scale back Obamacare’s burdensome regulations.
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Obama Care survived a GOP repeal attempt but the law’s prognosis remains poor—higher premiums and insurer flight. Some Republicans would be happy to dump money into the exchanges and move on, so credit the Trump Administration for a proposal that puts consumer choice ahead of politics.

On Tuesday the Health and Human Services Department proposed a rule for short-term, limited duration health insurance as an alternative to the ObamaCare exchanges. Insurers would have to make clear that the plans, which could last for less than 12 months, would be liberated from the Affordable Care Act’s benefit and other mandates.
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Medicare Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) were created by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to improve the efficiency of the networks of hospitals and doctors that deliver services to Medicare patients and thereby lower the government’s costs. So far, however, ACOs haven’t produced any savings for the federal government. ACOs would become more efficient and innovative if they were forced to compete with the other options beneficiaries have for getting their Medicare-covered benefits.

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People who bought policies from Centene, a large for-profit health insurance company, filed a federal lawsuit on Thursday claiming the company does not provide adequate access to doctors in 15 states. “Members have difficulty finding–and in many cases cannot find–medical providers,” who will accept patients covered under policies sold by Centene, according to the lawsuit filed in federal court in Washington State.

“People signed up for insurance and they ‘discovered there were no doctors,”’said Seth Lesser, a partner at the law firm of Klafter Olsen & Lesser who is representing some of the policyholders.

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Idaho has a maverick plan to let insurers sell plans that don’t meet Obamacare coverage rules and patient protections to give more health insurance options to citizens who can’t afford the expensive Obamacare policies. Gov. Butch Otter issued an executive order to authorize a state-level version of the “Cruz amendment,” which Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) offered to the Better Care Reconciliation Act during efforts to repeal the ACA last year. The amendment would have allowed insurers to offer non-ACA-compliant plans in the individual market so long as they also offered plans through the marketplace. Other conservative states are keeping a close eye on the option. HHS Secretary Alex Azar said he would closely scrutinize Idaho’s plan, but he said it was too early to know what action he might take.

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American workers have not seen their wages grow in tandem with the success of their employers.

Meanwhile, health spending has been growing faster than the broader economy. Health benefits consequently are getting more expensive for employers to offer, and companies are responding by making employees shoulder more of their own health care costs — either through higher premiums or higher out-of-pocket costs, like deductibles and copays.

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Because this exemption applies to employer-sponsored insurance but not individual coverage or out-of-pocket spending, it encourages group plans over consumer control. It should not be seen as sacred. However, the cap imposed by the Cadillac tax will become increasingly tight over time, which risks pushing Americans into public entitlements rather than empowering them as consumers. Policymakers should keep the Cadillac tax from biting too deeply — but a better way to end the tax bias toward employer-based plans would be to extend the tax exemption to health care that individuals purchase by themselves.
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Congressional Republicans’ move to scrap the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate is likely to drive up sales of cheap, short-term health plans that do not have Obamacare’s consumer protections or benefits, health insurance experts say — a development that could further destabilize the Obamacare exchanges.

The GOP’s final tax legislation, which is now awaiting President Donald Trump’s signature, eliminates in 2019 the ACA’s mandate requiring most people to have health insurance or pay a penalty. For 2018, the penalty is set at $695 or 2.5 percent of household income, whichever is greater.

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