The latest battle over Obamacare is whether people should be allowed to buy “short-term” health plans that don’t comply with requirements such as covering people with pre-existing conditions and providing comprehensive benefits like maternity coverage, prescription drugs, and mental health.
The Trump administration has proposed making it easier to provide such coverage by allowing the plans to be sold for up to a year. A 2016 Obama administration rule shortened them to three months, saying that many people were turning to the cheaper short-term plans to circumvent the Affordable Care Act.
The health-care industry largely opposes the proposed rule, arguing that it will lead to healthy people pulling out of the ACA exchanges, which in turn will drive up premiums when a higher share of people with medical problems are left.
If the administration finalizes the rule, as it probably will, that will leave it up to the states to decide whether they want to regulate the short-term plans more strictly. Twelve states already limit the plans to six-month durations, Maryland has recently passed legislation that would limit them to three months, and six states have proposed legislation or started the regulatory process to either ban the plans altogether or limit their duration to three months, according to a report by Georgetown University researchers.
In contrast, Virginia and Missouri are trying to pass legislation that would enable the duration of short-term plans to be up to a year.
The Virginia General Assembly passed legislation (SB 844) sponsored by Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant (R), a Richmond obstetrician and gynecologist, but Gov. Ralph Northam (D) attached amendments to the bill that were rejected by the legislature. It is now up to the governor to sign or veto the bill.
Faced with soaring premiums and fewer options in the individual market, people without employer-sponsored coverage who make too much money for the ACA’s premium subsidies need some affordable options, Dunnavant told me.
Some Virginians “now pay more for health insurance coverage than for their mortgage,” she said.
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