The Trump administration’s latest strike on the Affordable Care Act is to expand the availability of so-called short-term health insurance. Don’t be misled by the seeming modesty of this idea. It’s an impressive combination of bad policy and bad faith.
First, these aren’t short-term plans at all. They’d provide coverage for up to a year, much longer than required for the supposed purpose of helping people transition from one insurer to another. Second, the idea will drive up premiums for ordinary health insurance. Third, and most important, it undermines the ACA’s worthy ambition to see that all Americans can get decent health insurance.
Unfortunately, the administration can make this change without getting a law passed. One hopes, therefore, that the plan will be struck down by the courts. Adequate health insurance for all means making sure that people who buy individual policies get coverage similar to that provided by employer-sponsored plans. They shouldn’t be turned away or charged higher prices for being already sick. And their policies should cover the care they need -- including prescription drugs, mental health care, contraception and emergency-room treatment.
The administration’s elongated short-term plans would not be required to meet those ACA standards. Buyers would pay lower premiums, but in return run the risk of having less coverage than they expect when medical needs arise. Meanwhile, they would have taken themselves out of the regular-insurance risk pool. People choosing to do that will probably be healthier than average -- which will raise premiums for everyone else.
This change is only one of several ways the Trump administration has sought to lure healthy people out of the ACA marketplace. these so-called reforms are a concerted attack on the ACA’s foundations.