Officials are promoting lower-cost, short-term health plans

Officials are promoting lower-cost, short-term health plans

The new rules go into effect in 60 days, so expanded short-term policies could be available in October.

According to estimates, the administration said short-term plan premiums could be about a third of the cost of comprehensive coverage - about $160 a month or even less.

Administration officials say the short-term plans will provide a cheaper health insurance alternative for those who can't afford to buy coverage on the Obamacare exchanges.

The administration expects premiums for Obamacare plans to increase by 1% next year and by 5% in 2021 because of the shifts. They can include dollar limits on coverage and there's no guarantee of renewal.

Officials are hoping short-term plans will fit the bill. Three-quarters of respondents to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll said it is "very important" that Obamacare's rule prohibiting insurers from denying coverage due to a person's medical history remains law, while almost that many feel the same way about banning insurers from charging sick people higher rates.

But short-term insurance clearly has fewer benefits.

"If you get cancer, your plan will not cover oncology drugs, which can cost an average of $10,000 a month" and "if you are pregnant, you will have to find another way to pay for the cost", averaging about $32,000 for prenatal care and delivery, the center said in a recent post.

It's unclear how that might happen, since versions of such plans have always been available - including during the Obama administration.

The Trump administration's new regulation expanding short-term health insurance plans contains what amounts to a legal life preserver in case a key feature is struck down by a court.

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Premiums for the average benchmark ACA plan rose by 34 percent this year, according to a recent Congressional Budget Office report.

It also noted that the administration a year ago said it would halt so-called cost-sharing payments, which offset some out-of-pocket healthcare costs for low-income patients. The tax bill approved a year ago by Congress stops this financial penalty as of 2019. More short-term plans will be available starting this fall.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of NY says Democrats will "do everything in our power" to stop the Trump administration's expansion of short-term health insurance plans.

HHS officials said current law allows the plans to have this longer shelf life, although critics are likely to argue that - when you factor in the renewal option - a plan that lasts three years can not be considered short-term.

Federal health officials say the plans can last for up to 12 months and may be renewed for up to 36 months.

However, Edmund F. Haislmaier, senior health policy researcher of the conservative Heritage Foundation, said people who are already sick and getting Obamacare subsidies will not be affected. The move allows small businesses and the self-employed to join together based on their industry or location and purchase health insurance through association health plans.

And, for insurers, profit margins tend to be higher for short-term plans compared with ACA coverage. ACAP has long opposed this ... proposal as an arbitrary and capricious effort to do a regulatory end-run around the patient protections in the Affordable Care Act.

HHS issued a final rule on short-term health plans August 1.

That part of the law is under threat, however, in a case brought by Texas and 19 other states that seeks to declare that provision and two other parts of the ACA unconstitutional.

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