Policy changes undermine patient protections and threatens to drive up rates for others, College maintains
Oct. 19, 2018 (ACP) – The American College of Physicians is fighting back against what it sees as a misguided expansion of short-term health insurance by the Trump administration.
In conjunction with its allies, ACP has filed papers in federal court in opposition to the new policy. ACP also rallied U.S. senators who came within inches of voting to protect patients instead of allowing them to fall victim to insufficient coverage.
At issue: The new era of short-term insurance policies that began Oct. 1.
Previously, short-term insurance policies were limited to three months in length. Now, however, consumers can buy short-term insurance policies for up to a year and renew them twice more.
“Short-term policies are regulated by the states, so they don't have to comply with the consumer protections laid out in the Affordable Care Act,” according to a report by National Public Radio. “This means insurers can refuse to offer these policies to people with pre-existing health problems, or charge people more who are likely to need medications and health care.”
Such policies also “don't have to cover all of the 10 essential health benefits that must be included in Affordable Care Act policies,” NPR reported. “Those benefits include maternity coverage and mental health care.”
Those in favor of the policies say their give consumers more choices. But critics – including ACP – are worried about the negative effects. They note that short-term policies are supposed to provide temporary coverage to consumers, such as during periods when they're between jobs, and not stay in place for years.
“ACP is concerned that short-term limited duration plans will seriously threaten the stability of the health insurance marketplace, undermine important patient protections and drive up premiums for people who need comprehensive insurance,” said Ryan Crowley, ACP's senior associate for health policy. “These plans are allowed to discriminate based on health status and don't have to cover vital benefits like prescription drugs. People who buy these plans seeking cheap insurance will be exposed to high medical costs when they need services that aren't covered.”
In addition, Crowley said, “the uninsured rate is expected to rise because of the havoc these plans will cause.”
ACP had supported a Senate resolution that would have required short-term policies to cover pre-existing conditions. However, the effort failed on a tie vote of 50-50. One Republican senator, Maine's Susan Collins, joined the Democrats and independents in voting for the resolution.
Even if it had passed, however, the Republican-dominated House would have opposed the bill.
ACP also joined other medical organizations in signing onto a brief that supports a lawsuit targeting the new short-term insurance regulations.
The legal brief notes that the policy will “undermine” the Affordable Care Act “in ways that will harm physicians, patients, and the healthcare system as a whole.” In addition to ACP, it was signed by the American Medical Association, the American Osteopathic Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the HIV Medical Association and the Medical Society of the District of Columbia.
The “friend of the court” brief supports a lawsuit filed by the Association for Community Affiliated Plans.
Crowley said that many states have established regulations on short-term, limited duration plans and a handful of states prohibit their sale altogether.
“In absence of federal action to block sale of these products,” he said, “state action is warranted.”
ACP's statement on the “friend of the court” brief is available on the College's website.
The full amicus brief can be read here.