UPDATE: April 24, 2018: More organizations, including Aetna and the American Medical Association, submitted comments on the proposed rule Monday.
- The Alliance of Community Health Plans (ACHP) and America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) both slammed CMS' proposal to expand short-term, limited duration (STLD) insurance plans, saying the proposed rule would undermine key consumer protections, lead to higher premiums in the individual market and jeopardize market stability.
- The proposed rule, pushed by the Trump administration as a way to increase access to cheaper plan alternatives and sidestep the Affordable Care Act, would allow consumers to purchase plans for up to 12 months that do not adhere to federal rules for individual health insurance. STLD plans can charge those with pre-existing conditions more and may not cover ACA essential health benefits such as prescription drug coverage.
- The insurance lobbies argued that other policy mechanisms would be more effective at improving the individual health insurance market. AHIP pointed to increasing 1332 state waiver flexibility and the adoption of regulations aimed at preventing improper steering of Medicare and Medicaid consumers into the individual market, and ACHP advocated for the creation of a federal reinsurance program as more effective ways to promote affordable coverage.
The comments are indicative that many insurers are hesitant to back health plans that lack the consumer protections the ACA put into place due to a fear such plans would destabilize the individual market. Monday is the last day to submit comments on the rule.
A new Kaiser Family Foundation brief notes that many middle-income people not shielded by premium subsidies in the individual market would likely see premium costs increase. Combined with the individual mandate penalty being zeroed out, the effort to increase STLD plans could result in fewer individuals enrolled in the ACA market, adversely impacting its stability.
"Short-term plans were designed for consumers to use as temporary, stop-gap measures when moving between plans – not as long-term replacements for health insurance,” ACHP CEO Ceci Connolly said in a statement. “A broad, stable risk pool is crucial for providing affordable coverage and care. ACHP believes that other policy options, such as reinsurance, would be far more effective at promoting high-quality, affordable coverage and care for all Americans.”
ACHP argued the proposed rule should not be finalized, saying the current status-quo limit of 90 days should be maintained.
AHIP called for any final rule to limit the duration of STLD plans to six months, adding that the plans should be required to have a plain-language disclosure that the plans should not be considered comprehensive health insurance. The group argued that the effective date of any final rule should come no sooner than Jan. 1, 2020.
"As the Departments advance policies to expand access to lower-cost coverage choices for a subgroup of consumers, it is critical to improve the affordability of comprehensive coverage options for all Americans, regardless of health status," Matthew Eyles, AHIP COO, wrote in the group's comment.
But major insurer Aetna, which left AHIP in 2016, said in its comment STLD plans "can be a valuable option for many consumers."
The insurer argued that such plans must be transparent with disclosure language, limit any look-back period for pre-existing conditions to 12 months and define a minimum floor of benefits including inpatient hospital services, physician services, mental health and substance abuse services and one annual physical and annual well-woman visit before the deductible.
A group of Senate Democrats were among those asking for the rule to not be finalized, arguing it "could increase costs and reduce access to quality coverage for millions of Americans, harm people with pre-existing conditions, and force premium increases on older Americans."
The American Medical Association also echoed the insurance lobby's concern, saying STLD plans would endanger the coverage gains of the past decade and destabilize the market. AMA argued the administration should withdraw the proposed rule, saying it is "a step in the wrong direction and will lead to a proliferation of inadequate health insurance policies in the market."
A joint comment of 21 consumer advocates, including March of Dimes and the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, also called for withdrawing the proposal.
PhRMA voiced concern in its comment over the lack of prescription drug coverage in STLD plans, citing an analysis that found than 71% of such plans do not cover outpatient prescription drugs. "If consumers can renew these plans for an extended period, it increases the chances that consumers may find themselves diagnosed with a new condition that can be effectively treated by an innovative drug at a time when they are covered by a short-term plan that does not cover prescriptions drugs," PhRMA wrote.