Trump Releases Obamacare Hostages

The Trump administration has issued a new regulation that will provide an escape route for health insurance consumers who have, since the imposition of Obamacare, been forced by their bureaucratic captors to choose between plans they can’t afford and going without coverage. Once the proposed rule is implemented, in 60 days, Americans will be able to buy health plans that conform to their own needs rather than the whims of Washington politicians. And, because this coverage won’t be loaded down with useless “benefits” that many consumers don’t want, their premiums will be lower than the price of a typical Obamacare plan.

This lower-cost coverage will not, as Obamacare apologists continue to claim, involve “junk plans.” In fact, they are already permitted under the risibly-titled “Affordable Care Act.” Americans may purchase these so-called “short-term” plans if they find themselves between jobs or without coverage for some other reason. They are of very limited utility, however, because they can only be sold on an extremely restricted basis — the coverage is only good for a paltry three months (or less). This ridiculously limited duration is one of the primary issues the proposed rule is designed to address. As the HHS press release phrases it:

The rule proposes to expand the availability of short-term, limited-duration health insurance by allowing consumers to buy plans providing coverage for any period of less than 12 months, rather than the current maximum period of less than three months. The proposed rule, if finalized, will provide additional options to Americans who cannot afford to pay the costs of soaring healthcare premiums or do not have access to healthcare choices that meet their needs under current law.

How will this reduce premiums? These plans are not required to fit Obamacare’s arbitrary definition of health coverage. Under that ill-conceived health care “reform” law, an insurance plan is not an insurance plan if it fails to provide a one-size-fits-all set of government-approved benefits. The Democrats who passed Obamacare and the apparatchiks who implemented it decreed that a 60-year-old, unmarried male must purchase a plan that includes maternity coverage. Likewise, a childless couple in their 60s must buy pediatric coverage. The redesigned short-term plans come without such wacky, expensive features, and will therefore cost less:

Short-term, limited-duration insurance is generally more affordable than ACA-compliant plans. In the fourth quarter of 2016, a short-term, limited-duration policy cost approximately $124 a month compared to $393 for an unsubsidized ACA-compliant plan.… Today’s proposed changes are intended to provide additional, often much more affordable coverage options, while also ensuring consumers understand the coverage they purchase.

So, who is likely to benefit from this type of plan? According to the Trump administration, the coverage is meant to provide relief for individuals who find Obamacare coverage too expensive, those who have seen their health insurance choices diminish since the “reform” law was implemented, and patients whose doctors are not in their network under Obamacare. The administration estimates that the number of people who fall into these categories, and will move from the exchanges to these short-term plans will be measured in the hundreds of thousands, but that estimate is probably too conservative.

The categories of individuals listed don’t leave out very many Obamacare enrollees. Given a choice, most of the people who remain in the exchanges are likely to be those already enduring serious, expensive illnesses. The healthy individuals falling into these categories are likely to head for the exits. This will, of course, render the risk pool even sicker than it is today, and it will accelerate the “death spiral” that is already well under way. This will, in turn, hasten the inevitable demise of the already moribund health care law. Thus, the new regulation is under attack from the usual suspects, like the Los Angeles Times:

The proposal reflects the approach taken by Trump and many other Republicans to the rapid rise in insurance premiums for those not covered by a large employer’s plan: Let insurers offer thinner policies for less money to people who don’t need much care. Doing so, however, means that healthier people will abandon the state Obamacare exchanges, leaving them mainly to people who have preexisting conditions or need on comprehensive coverage.

This complaint really isn’t about health care, however. It’s about redistribution. The editors of the Times haven’t yet figured out that redistribution of wealth from healthy people to sick people is economically inefficient and wildly unpopular. They conclude their diatribe with the following delusional claim: “This nasty trend is likely to continue until voters make it stop.” Sorry, guys, the voters have already spoken in 2010, 2014, and 2016. They want Obamacare gone. They want fairness, not redistribution. President Trump gets this. That’s why he and his administration are working to set us free from Obamacare.

David Catron
David Catron
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David Catron is a health care consultant and frequent contributor to The American Spectator. You can follow him on Twitter at @Catronicus.
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