April 9, 2019

Dems Target Affordable Health Care Again


KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • House Democrats want to eliminate affordable health insurance options like short-term limited-duration plans and association health plans.
  • Their proposal would reduce choice, forcing Americans back into a one-size-fits-all Obamacare plan with no alternative. 
  • States would lose the flexibility to innovate and improve their damaged insurance marketplaces.

The latest attempt by Democrats to control Americans’ health care is the “Protecting Pre-Existing Conditions and Making Health Care More Affordable Act.” The title is ironic, since it would strike health coverage that now provides affordable options millions of Americans want. This House bill would restrict the availability of short-term limited-duration plans and association health plans that have been a viable option for people who lack access to employer coverage and have been priced out of Obamacare’s individual market. The proposal also strips states of the opportunity to innovate in their insurance markets to increase competition and affordable coverage options.

Democrats Move to Block Short-Term Plans in the States

States Blocked

decreasing affordable options

Last October, the Trump administration eased Obama-era regulations that had restricted how long people could use short-term limited-duration health coverage. The change has allowed people to buy plans that last a full year and can be renewed for up to three years. States maintain the regulatory authority to determine if these plans are appropriate options. Today, people can buy some sort of short-term coverage in all but eight states.

Americans understand that these plans can be a good way to get coverage without breaking the bank. Even the liberal Urban Institute estimated last spring that 4.3 million people would enroll in one of the plans this year – including at least 1.7 million who were previously uninsured. Democrats labeled this option as “junk” coverage, and their new legislation would rescind the administration’s regulatory reform. They would prevent people from buying the kind of short-term plans that are working today.

Democrats Only Want Obamacare

Out of Options

The Democrat proposal also takes aim at association health plans. The Trump administration recognized the difficulty small businesses had providing affordable health coverage to their employees. So last year it finalized a rule allowing small businesses, including sole proprietors, to band together to get better rates and more options for their members. The health care firm Avalere has projected that by 2022 these plans could cost $11,000 less than an Obamacare plan on the individual market.

AHPs are now available in 13 states, with additional plans in the works in states such as Wisconsin and Tennessee. Democrats must worry that this alternative to Obamacare is becoming too popular. They’ve taken to claiming the plans could harm people with pre-existing conditions. The claim falls short: the administration specified that nondiscrimination rules apply to AHPs, so they “cannot discriminate in eligibility, benefits, or premiums against an individual within a group of similarly situated individuals based on a health factor.”

Limiting State Innovation

Section 1332 of the 2010 health care law allows state flexibility waivers, but the Obama administration made them difficult to get. Unlike the one-size-fits-all preference of Obamacare, the Trump administration recognized that insurance markets vary among, and even within, states. It issued guidance to help states get waivers to replace parts of Obamacare with new approaches that work better for their residents. Eight states have obtained “1332 waivers,” and several more, most recently Georgia, have passed legislation to seek waivers.

The waivers have allowed states to find ways to lower premiums and increase coverage in their individual markets, while ensuring protections for people with pre-existing conditions. The legislation by House Democrats would strike President Trump’s guidance and disallow similar guidance from going into effect, stifling innovation by the states.

Republicans are protecting choice

CBO and the Joint Committee on Taxation estimate “roughly 5 million more people will be enrolled in an AHP or a short-term plan each year over the next decade as a result of the new rules.” One million people from this group would have been uninsured otherwise. More than 34 million people live in states that have already received waivers to come up with better ideas than Obamacare offered. If Democrats truly cared about preserving affordable health insurance options for hard-working Americans, they would embrace these innovations.

Instead, Democrats have offered a bill that says if you like your plan, and they don’t, you will not be allowed to keep it. Democrats prefer to turn back the clock and force all Americans back into an expensive Obamacare plan with no alternatives. Americans have seen a better way, where choice and competition can help provide the affordable coverage they want and need.

Issue Tag: Health Care