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Trump administration strikes another blow on health care: Associated health plans approved that skimp on benefits 

Doctor Hands Holding StethascopeThe Trump administration’s “junk plan” rule, finalized Tuesday, would allow insurers to sell health care plans without adequate coverage for essentials such as prescriptions and quality maternity care. Enrollees who get sick may be responsible for significant expenses, forcing them into debt for care and risking medical bankruptcy.

“The Trump administration’s ill-conceived rule on association health plans will hurt millions of patients, particularly the most vulnerable, who face rising costs and may be unable to afford insurance and access to affordable care,” said Eagan Kemp, health care policy advocate for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch Division. “This rule will further destabilize the Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplaces, as insurers providing junk plans will be able to cherry-pick the young and healthy, leaving only the sick to be covered under plans that continue to have ACA protections and causing their premiums to rise.”

Allowing the sale of poorly regulated plans takes the nation back to a time when greedy insurers offered false promises to consumers and abandoned them when they got sick, Kemp said.

New York Attorney General Barbara D. Underwood and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey are suing the Trump administration over the associated health plans:

Yesterday’s announcement by the Trump Administration to dramatically expand the footprint of association health plans will invite fraud, mismanagement, and deception – and, as we’ve made clear, will do nothing to help ease the real healthcare challenges facing Americans, the attorneys general said. “We believe the rule, as proposed, is unlawful and would lead to fewer critical consumer health protections.

“We will sue to safeguard the protections under the Affordable Care Act and ensure that all families and small businesses have access to quality, affordable health care,” they said.

In March 2018, the two attorneys general led a coalition of 17 of their colleagues in filing a comment letter with the U.S. Department of Labor opposing the department’s proposed Association Health Plan rule. 

Those who have studied insurance sales across state lines and past efforts dating to the 1980s of small groups to band together to compete with health plans say they haven’t worked, according to a Forbes article “Trump’s Associated Health Plans Are an Old Idea That Hasn’t Worked.” And when association health plans offering skimpier benefits have operated in the past, consumers have suffered and established insurers have stayed away from offering bare-bones policies as analysts expect they will do this time, according to the article.

Copyright 2018, Rita R. Robison, Consumer Specialist

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