Trump Administration opens door to less comprehensive health insurance plans

Moving to make changes in the Obama health law, the Trump Administration issued a new rule on Wednesday which will permit consumers to buy limited health insurance plans that don't meet all the coverage requirements under the Affordable Care Act, but might be more attractive to individuals who would like the opportunity to pay lower premiums for a policy that offers less comprehensive health care coverage.

"President Trump is bringing more affordable insurance options back to the market," said Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, as the White House flexed its administrative muscles to continue to grind away at the Obama health law.

"These plans aren’t for everyone, but they can provide a much more affordable option for millions of the forgotten men and women left out by the current system," Azar added, as the White House tries to make some health care system changes, after watching the GOP Congress fail in the efforts to repeal the Obama health system.

"Short term, limited-duration health plans will help millions of Americans who were shut out of insurance markets due to Obamacare," the White House said.

"Americans trapped under rapidly escalating health care costs are desperate for more affordable alternatives," said Freedom Partners Executive Vice President Nathan Nascimento, as conservative groups hailed the move.

While the plan has the strong support of President Trump, GOP lawmakers, and outside groups, ultimately, it will be up to individual states to determine whether these type of short-term health insurance plans will be allowed for sale, and how they are structured for consumers, which could lead to very different health insurance choices across the country.

"As insurance markets vary greatly state-to-state, it is critical we have maximum flexibility to address the needs of our markets while maintaining consumer protections," said Tennessee Insurance Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak, who heads the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

For example, short-term health coverage plans are not allowed for sale in New Jersey. Michigan doesn't allow short-term insurance plans for more than 185 days. Oregon has a 3 month limit on such coverage. And states have different rules on what must be covered under those plans.

Whatever those final details in various states, under this rule released on Wednesday, states will be allowed to approve for sale health insurance plans that are less expensive, but also offer less coverage.

"The short-term plans the Trump administration is expanding can deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, do not have to cover the ACA's essential benefits, and can cap coverage on an annual basis," said Larry Levitt, with the Kaiser Family Foundation.

"We reviewed short-term insurance plans on the market and found they often don't cover maternity, prescription drugs, substance abuse, or mental health," Levitt wrote on Twitter.

Critics said the reappearance of these more limited health care plans goes against the exact goal of the Obama health law, which was to make sure that consumers had coverage for all medical possibilities, not just what was in the fine print.

"What a sick way to run a health system," said Andy Slavitt, who was at one point in charge of implementing the Obama health law.

Democrats in the Congress denounced the move, labeling these plans 'junk' insurance.

"The Trump Administration is, once again, sabotaging our health care system with these plans," said Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL).

"No one should be fooled into buying one of these junk plans thinking that it will protect them and their family," said Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL).

"These plans are the Trump University equivalent of health insurance," said Topher Spiro, a Democratic Party health activist.

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