The Trump administration is under fire for its latest move to sabotage the American healthcare system with an "unconscionable" proposed rule that would allow health insurance providers to offer what critics describe as "junk plans" that will drive up costs for patients and threaten necessary medical care for millions of Americans.
Trump and his newly minted @HHSGov Secretary Alex Azar continue to endanger the health and well-being of the American people. Today’s proposed “junk plan” rule would hurt patients by driving up costs and threatening access to health care for millions. https://t.co/im2qWwIITh
— Public Citizen (@Public_Citizen) February 20, 2018
On Tuesday, in response to an executive order that President Donald Trump signed in October, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar—in coordination with the Labor and Treasury departments—unveiled a proposal "to expand the availability of short-term, limited-duration health insurance by allowing consumers to buy plans providing coverage for any period of less than 12 months, rather than the current maximum period of less than three months."
These short-term plans are exempt from certain essential coverage standards—meaning they often don't cover healthcare related to pregnancy, substance abuse, or mental illness—and providers can deny coverage for pre-existing conditions as well as set limits on maximum annual and lifetime benefits for patients. Critics warn the expansion will only benefit healthy people at the expense of the most vulnerable Americans.
Trump is expanding short-term health plans.
Short-term plans don’t have to cover pre-existing conditions. Here are some of the questions they ask applicants. If you answer yes, you can’t get coverage. pic.twitter.com/pwmngjbl7r
— Sarah Kliff (@sarahkliff) February 20, 2018
Acknowledging a series of actions by the Trump administration that were designed to attack the national healthcare system, Eagan Kemp, a policy advocate for Public Citizen, said the proposal "further sabotages healthcare in America by damaging insurance markets and allowing unethical insurers to offer false promises that place consumers at risk."
"By allowing the sale of plans that offer only the illusion of coverage, more Americans will face unmet healthcare needs and many will face medical bankruptcy when they get sick and their plan does not cover the care they need."
"This rule further destabilizes the Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplaces by allowing insurers to offer junk plans targeting the young and healthy without essential health benefits. As a result, only the sick will be covered under plans with full ACA protections, driving up the costs of those plans and potentially making them unaffordable," he explained.
"By allowing the sale of plans that offer only the illusion of coverage," Kemp added, "more Americans will face unmet healthcare needs and many will face medical bankruptcy when they get sick and their plan does not cover the care they need."
Calling the move Trump's "biggest assault to the ACA, American families, and the law" yet, Andy Slavitt, who oversaw the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services during the Obama administration, noted that while "2017 Trump aimed for a vote to repeal the ACA," which failed multiple times, "2018 Trump is just skipping the voting part and ignoring the law."
Slavitt also outlined some of the likely consequences should the rule take effect, emphasizing that "all of this is by design."
Welcome back to:
Higher premiums for being sick
Insurers leaving markets
All of this is by design.
— Andy Slavitt (@ASlavitt) February 20, 2018
Others pointed out that the Trump administration's ability to continuously undermine the ACA partly demonstrates why there is growing support for overhauling the nation's healthcare system and implementing a "Medicare for All" single-payer system that would make medical care a guaranteed right for all Americans.