Consumers getting more options for short-term health plans


WASHINGTON (AP) — Consumers will have more options to buy cheaper, short-term health insurance under a new Trump administration rule, but there's no guarantee the plans will cover pre-existing conditions or provide benefits like coverage of prescription drugs.

Administration officials said today the short-term plans will last up to 12 months and can be renewed for up to 36 months. With premiums about one-third the cost of comprehensive coverage, the option is geared to people who want an individual health insurance policy but make too much money to qualify for subsidies under the Affordable Care Act.

"We see that it's just unaffordable for so many people who are not getting subsidies and we're trying to make additional options available," said Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. "These may be a good choice for individuals, but they may also not be the right choice for everybody."

Buyers take note: Plans will carry a disclaimer that they don't meet the ACA's requirements and safeguards. And there's no federal guarantee short-term coverage can be renewed.

Democrats immediately branded Trump's approach as "junk insurance," and a major insurer group warned that consumers could potentially be harmed. Other insurers were more neutral, and companies marketing the plans hailed the development.

It's unclear how much mass-market appeal such limited plans will ultimately have. State insurance regulators also have jurisdiction, and many states may move to impose their own restrictions. Federal officials said they anticipate a slow take-up, not sweeping changes.

Unable to repeal much of "Obamacare," the Trump administration has tried to undercut how it's supposed to work and to create options for people who don't qualify for financial assistance with premiums.

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