Word From Washington: District Court Upholds Rule about Short-Term Limited Health Plans

District Court Ruling Upholding Short-Term Health Insurance Rule 
Could Make Comprehensive Coverage Unaffordable; Leave Many Uncovered
Patient groups representing millions of Americans with serious health conditions are voicing concern about access to affordable, comprehensive health coverage after U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon today upheld an administration rule expanding access to short-term limited-duration (STLD) health plans. The groups filed an amicus curiae (or friend-of-the-court) brief in the U.S. District Court case, Association for Community Affiliated Plans v. United States, explaining the devastating impact patients could face under the final rule implementing changes to the plans.
The groups, which include the American Cancer Society, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Epilepsy Foundation, Global Healthy Living Foundation, Hemophilia Federation of America, March of Dimes, National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship, National Multiple Sclerosis Society and The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, argued the rule effectively allows STLD plans to serve as replacements for comprehensive coverage in violation of current law.
A statement from the groups follows:
“We are disappointed in the court’s decision to allow for expanded access to short-term, limited-duration health insurance plans. As noted in our brief, we have concerns these plans will destabilize the insurance market by attracting younger and healthier people to these lower cost, barebones plans while forcing those who need comprehensive coverage to pay more in premiums or be unable to obtain insurance entirely.
“The court’s decision to uphold this rule threatens to split and weaken the individual insurance market, which has provided millions of previously uninsured people with access to quality coverage since the health care law went into effect. People with serious illnesses need comprehensive coverage, but the availability of short-term plans could result in patients being forced to pay increasingly higher premiums or forego coverage altogether as insurers raise rates for higher quality plans or leave the market entirely – a common problem prior to 2014.
“Increases in premiums and decreases in availability of comprehensive plans will fall particularly hard on those with significant medical needs. Because issuers of short-term plans are empowered to discriminate against those with pre-existing conditions, such individuals will remain reliant on their ability to secure ACA-compliant plans.
“Moreover, many individuals with short-term, limited-duration insurance who become sick will be unable to afford the care needed to respond to a life-threatening diagnosis, and will be forced to delay treatment for the months it may take to secure adequate coverage. Without coverage when they need it most, people with serious illnesses could face serious financial hardship and potential bankruptcy paying for their care.
“Because of the overwhelming risks to patients and the proven flaws with these plans, the groups will continue to advocate for stopping the rule and preserving limits on STLD plans.”