Dems press for new analysis on proposed short-term, limited-duration health insurance rule

Democratic Senators Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Ron Wyden (D-Or.), along with Representatives Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.), Richard Neal (D-Mass.), and Bobby Scott (D-Va.), are urging the top officials at the Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, Treasury, and the Office of Management & Budget to hold off on finalizing the proposed rule on short-term limited-duration health insurance.

The proposal. The proposed rule, published on February 21, 2018, would amend the definition of short-term, limited-duration insurance to lengthen the maximum period of such insurance. Consumers would be allowed to buy plans providing coverage for any period of less than 12 months, rather than the current maximum period of less than three months. Those who do not favor the proposed rule have expressed concerns that it would permit plans to avoid the protections of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Analysis called into question. In a May 31 letter to the officials, the lawmakers also pressed for an update of the analysis of the regulation’s economic impact, republication of the rule after the new analysis, and reopening of the rule for public comment. The lawmakers pointed to concerns about the large differences between the departments’ analysis and those of independent experts as to the potential harmful impact of the rule.

These “junk plans” do not offer the consumer protections that are required under current law, and leave consumers uncovered for major medical expenses, according to the lawmakers. The Democrats noted in their letter that nonpartisan analyses, including one prepared by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Chief Actuary, show the rule would have much larger and more damaging impacts than the departments’ analysis suggests.

“We write to express our concern about the flawed analysis provided in the Economic Impact and Paperwork Burden section of the proposed rule,” wrote the lawmakers. “This rule would affect millions of people and should not rely on a faulty, biased or incomplete analysis. There are wide differences between the analysis prepared by the Departments … and analyses prepared by nonpartisan sources that show the rule would actually cause serious harm to our health care system. We urge you to re-publish the proposed rule with an updated analysis of the regulation’s economic impact and re-open the comment period before finalizing this rule.”

Important protections lost. Murray previously raised concerns about how the proposed rule would permit plans that would not be permitted under the Affordable Care Act. “President Trump’s latest step backward on health care will help insurance companies skirt the rules to boost their profits, while raising costs for many patients, and leaving others with junk plans that don’t protect them when they need it,” she said in a statement. “Any member of Congress who is concerned about women being charged more than men for the same care, who wants to make sure patients with pre-existing conditions, like opioid addiction, don’t get priced out of coverage, or who is worried about families paying the price for President Trump’s health care sabotage, should work with Democrats right away on steps to undo the damage and protect families from the premium spikes the President and extreme Republicans are causing.”

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