Health & Spirit

With proposed new rules, Trump administration opens door to skimpier health plans

Noam N. Levey, Tribune Washington Bureau on

Published in Health & Fitness

"The rule proposed today will almost certainly result in more people facing financial distress when an unexpected health crisis happens and they discover their association health plan coverage is inadequate," said Chris Hansen, president of the advocacy arm of the American Cancer Society.

By allowing healthier Americans to buy plans that don't cover expensive medications or other medical benefits, these plans also risk driving up costs for sick patients who need the more extensive coverage.

For example, proposals last year by congressional Republicans to allow health plans to offer slimmed down benefits would have made coverage unaffordable for many consumers with preexisting medical conditions, according to analyses by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

It is unclear how many of these association health plans would open and whether states would be able to impose their own benefit requirements on the plans to assure that they offer a full set of benefits.

Some states that have aggressively implemented the Affordable Care Act, such as California, would likely try to retain the consumer protections enacted through the 2010 law.

In other places, however, skimpier health plans might become more widespread. And the Trump administration has signaled its intent to push further deregulation.

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Federal agencies are currently working on other rules to allow more widespread sale of short-term health plans that would be allowed to turn away sick patients altogether.

The proposed rules on association health plans are open for public comment for the next 60 days, after which they may be adjusted before becoming final.

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