Health care experts are sounding the alarm about Republican efforts to let insurance companies sell junk insurance plans that weaken protections for people with pre-existing conditions. This move will rip up the 10 essential health benefits and will leave people without coverage for critical healthcare needs. These new developments underscore how Sen. Heller and his party are continuing to sabotage the Affordable Care Act and undermine the nation’s health care system, all at the expense of hardworking Nevada families.
Nevada Democratic State Party spokesperson Sarah Abel released the following statement:
“No matter what party they belong to, Nevadans are worried about being able to afford life-saving health care for themselves and their families. Heller-backed junk insurance plans will take Nevada families backwards, to when health care plans didn’t cover essential benefits like maternity care, mental health care, substance abuse treatment, or prescription drugs. Nevadans deserve a senator who will work to improve the Affordable Care Act and lower their costs, not a self-serving politician who’s still dead set on sabotaging the nation’s health care system to score a partisan political win.”
People would be able to stay on a type of sub-par temporary health plan longer under a proposed Trump administration rule, sparking a concern that the plans won’t give consumers sufficient coverage.
The proposal would lift the cap on short-term limited duration plans from six months to just under a year to give more options to consumers who cannot afford the rising cost of health care, according to the Department of Health and Human Services and other agencies involved. The plans can be much cheaper, but do not carry Obamacare-required benefits such as coverage for preexisting conditions.
Nevada lawmakers have already codified the six-month limit on these plans into state law, but experts say they still pose risks. A plan that was intended to act as a temporary bridge to full coverage is now being discussed as a year-round alternative, said Nevada Insurance Commissioner Barbara Richardson.
“It wasn’t rally set up to do what is now being proposed that it will be doing, and I think that’s the concern,” Richardson said. “The new rule is kind of hinting that you can use it as a substitute for an Affordable Care Act-compliant plan, and it doesn’t have all the benefits of the Affordable Care Act plans themselves.”
These limited plans do not cover the 10 essential health benefits listed by the Affordable Care Act and could leave people with insurance that doesn’t cover what they need, said Heather Korbulic, executive director of the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange. She said the typical exchange plan carries an 8 percent commission for the broker who sells the plan.
Nevada law gives some protection to consumers, Korbulic said, but it is still a critical issue for those who may not know what they’re buying.
“Those are not nearly as generous of benefits as consumers are currently receiving in a qualified health plan,” Korbulic said. “They don’t typically cover maternity, they don’t cover mental health, they oftentimes don’t cover prescription drugs, they have extremely high deductibles.”
The new tax law nixed the individual mandate for lack of insurance, but the penalty still applies for people who forego coverage this year and those who buy a limited-duration, limited-benefit plan. The Trump administration did issue new rules expanding exemptions for the penalty. Korbulic said the mandate exists to keep healthy people insured and bring stability to the market.
“The point of the Affordable Care Act, one of them, was to offer this standardized set of benefits that wouldn’t leave anybody out, that everybody would be able to access those benefits,” Korbulic said. “I’m concerned that consumers are going to be sold products that are not actually the right thing for them.”