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“Junk” Insurance Plans Could Weaken Affordable Care Act Protections

Photo Credit: Aaron P. Bernstein / Getty
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As the midterm elections near, health care remains one of the biggest concerns in voters’ minds. In particular, people across the political spectrum want to know that strong protections for coverage of pre-existing conditions, made possible by the Affordable Care Act, will continue. 

It’s strange, then, that White House issued a rule in August that allows for what some are calling ‘junk’ health care plans. These short-term limited duration health care plans are designed to fill temporary and limited gaps in coverage. Under the new rule, they can cover 364 days and are renewable for up to three years.

They also let insurers skirt important consumer protections mandated by the Affordable Care Act.

With these junk plans, insurers are permitted to screen for, and charge more for, pre-existing conditions. They target healthier people under the pretext of offering lower premiums. However, these plans often don’t cover essential benefits guaranteed under the ACA, such as maternity and mental health care, substance use disorder treatment, and prescription drugs. That leaves subscribers on the hook for sky-high out-pocket-costs if they need anything outside the scope of the plans.

Just as important, these plans gives insurance corporations an incentive to lure healthy people away from the ACA marketplace. As subscribers leave the ACA marketplace for these skimpy insurance plans, those markets could be weakened, increasing costs for the rest of us.

Though an effort by Democratic Senators to block the rule failed by one vote, it’s not too late to act, as many extremists in Congress still support President Trump’s efforts to eliminate the protections of the Affordable Care Act.

If protecting pre-existing conditions is important to you, make your voice heard this November.