Health plans

Biden must not kill short-term health plans

DDemocratic lawmakers seek to limit patient choice in the health insurance market.

Forty of them
just sent a letter
to the Biden administration urging regulators to roll back a Trump-era rule that expanded access to short-term health plans. President Joe Biden is responsive to their pleas. He called short-term plans “garbage” during his 2020 campaign. But his administration has yet to undo Donald Trump’s rule.

This is a good thing. Short-term plans are among the few affordable sources of insurance coverage available to people shopping in the individual market. The Trump administration has understood this. In 2018, it extended the maximum duration of short-term plans from three months to just under a year. The rule also allowed insurers to renew patient coverage for up to three years.

Short-term plans aren’t bound by Obamacare’s cost-inflating mandates, which require policies to cover everyone regardless of health status or background and prohibit insurers from charging seniors more than three times what they charge young people. The average short-term plan only costs around $120 per month, which is about a quarter of the price of the average trade-in plan. So it is not surprising that
about 3 million people
enrolled in the plans in 2019, the latest year for which data is available.

That’s a problem, according to critics. They say Trump’s expansion amounts to “Obamacare sabotage” – and lament that the cheaper plans are turning people away from trade.

But rather than enact meaningful reforms that could make Obamacare less expensive, Democrats remain determined to ban the alternatives. They would rather lure people into trading with lavish taxpayer subsidies. Even those earning more than four times the federal poverty level, or more than $100,000 in income for a family of four, now receive federal assistance with their premiums.

Patients deserve the freedom to choose the health plan that works best for them. Trump’s rule expanding access to short-term plans gives patients that choice — and should be seen as an enduring success in health policy.

Sally C. Pipes is President and CEO and Thomas W. Smith Fellow in Health Policy at the Pacific Research Institute. His latest book is
False premise, false promise: The dire reality of Medicare for All
(Meeting 2020). Follow her on Twitter @sallypipes.