Trump Administration Sued For Rule That Allows Useless Junk Health Plans To Flourish

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A group of patient advocacy organizations sued the Trump administration today over its recent rule that extends the life of short-term health insurance plans, which suck and are total useless junk, ThinkProgress reported.

The lawsuit was filed by seven groups, including mental health organizations and other patient advocacy groups. It alleges the rule would “permit the creation of a parallel individual insurance market consisting of plans that are not subject to the ACA’s consumer protection standards,” which is “contrary to law, and is arbitrary and capricious” because it’s incompatible with the Affordable Care Act. Under the 1946 Administrative Procedure Act, agencies can’t just change rules because there’s a new president in town and they don’t like the last president’s rules—they need to establish they have real evidence for making the change, and that it was done with Congress’ intent in mind.

The Trump administration’s rule expands the use of these skimpy health insurance plans, which are allowed to exclude what are called “essential health benefits” because they’re intended as temporary coverage. These plans are so bare-bones as to be offensively useless: according to ThinkProgress, half don’t cover mental health treatment and none cover maternity—which is extra offensive given the Republicans’ assault on abortion access and reproductive rights.


Under Obama, these plans could only be used for three months, such as when a person was between jobs, but this rule extends that to a year, renewable for up to three years. It essentially changes their function from a temporary bridge to a permanent state of poor coverage. As the lawsuit notes, even “insurers who offer such coverage do not consider it a replacement for ordinary health insurance.”

The lawsuit also points out that these plans could potentially be extended longer than three years if individuals purchase multiple plans, which is something that’s already happening under current rules, as this ad on the health insurance site eHealth shows:


These plans are also designed to undermine the ACA exchanges by attracting young, healthy individuals who feel they don’t need a more comprehensive plan. According to the lawsuit, the departments named in the suit “themselves estimate that the rule will increase ACA marketplace premiums by 5%.” The Wall Street Journal explained how this will impact everyone else:

The result, they have said, will be a two-tiered market for people who buy their own coverage and don’t get it from federal programs or employers —with higher costs for those with pre-existing health issues. They have also said the plans will leave some consumers with huge costs if they develop a medical condition that isn’t covered.


Again: a medical condition like, say, having a baby.

Look, for example, at the first two health plans suggested by eHealth when I search for an individual my age and in zip code:


So, if I’m poor and can only afford $48 a month, I’ll have a $10,000 deductible, an absurd amount that most Americans could never pay over the course of a year, let alone all in one go—like if I got hit by a bus or had a heart attack. That plan also doesn’t cover outpatient prescription drugs, so I’d have to say goodbye to my migraine drugs or any potential maternity care, so if I got pregnant... Lol??? But the Trump administration’s rule means I’d be ‘allowed’ to use a plan like this for up to three years. If that’s the only plan you can afford, you don’t have much choice.

Although these junk plans are particularly awful—no one should have this shitty coverage, whether it’s for 30 days or three years—the fundamental problem is that our healthcare system is based on insurance at all. Insurance companies make money by taking in more in premiums than they end up paying for care. That is why they want to sell these plans that suck and cover nothing. Republicans want to help them do that, and Democrats have been very bad at articulating alternatives that don’t accept the premise of this vicious system—that healthcare can only be paid for by consumers and that profits for health insurers must be baked in.