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HHS chief to states: Don’t spoil Trump’s ‘short-term’ health plans

August 9, 2018

Health Secretary Alex Azaron Thursdayurged defiant states to stop thwarting President Trump’s push to offer cheaper, short-term plans to residents whove been priced out of Obamacare.

Speaking in New Orleans, Mr. Azar said the bare-bones plans arent the right option for everyone, though might be a good choice for people who are in between health plans or work for themselves in todays gig economy yet do not qualify for taxpayer subsidies that knock down the cost of soaring premiums on Obamacares exchanges.

Mr. Trump wants to let people hold onto the plans for a full year up from three months and renew them for two more years, if desired, yet Mr. Azar said blue states are derailing the administrations plans.

This affordable option will only be as available as state legislators and insurance commissioners allow it to be, he told the American Legislative Exchange Council, a nonprofit for conservative state legislators.

He was referring to states that have thwarted Mr. Trump by restoring limits on the bare-bones plans.

We believe sensible state regulation of these plans is important, he added. But millions of Americans are in need of affordable insurance options, and states can help build this market outside of Obamacares broken regulations.

The short-term plans dont have to cover the full menu of benefits that Obamacare requires, such as mental health or maternity care, and do not have to accept people with preexisting conditions.

Democrats say Mr. Trumps move is yet another example of Obamacare sabotage that will siphon much-needed customers out their prized programs markets, raising costs for those who rely on robust coverage and the 2010 laws protections.

Maryland and Vermont passed laws that restore the duration of short-term plans to just three months and prohibit renewals, while Hawaii barred insurers from selling the bare-bones plans to anyone eligible for Obamacares robust coverage.

Some insurance commissioners have questioned the value of the plans, saying customers may sign up and then not realize their injury or surprise health condition isnt covered.

The main insurers lobby, Americas Health Insurance Plans, aired similar concerns after Mr. Trump finalized his plan Aug. 1.

We remain concerned that consumers who rely on short-term plans for an extended time period will face high medical bills when they need care that isnt covered or exceed their coverage limits, AHIP President and CEO Matt Eyles said.

Yet the Trump administration says consumers are clamoring for more options, citing a 20-percent drop in the number of unsubsidized enrollees in Obamacare from 2016 to 2017.

Mr. Trumps decision to extend short-term plans followed an earlier move to let small employers in a similar geographic area or like-minded trades to band together in association health plans that do not have to cover as many things as Obamacare plans.

Completely undoing the damage of Obamacare will require Congress to repeal and replace the law itself, Mr. Azar said. But until that happens, this administration remains committed to repealing and replacing the ideology that underlies it: undoing the unnecessary restrictions on consumer choice, and replacing them with free-market solutions that really work.

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