Short-Term Plans Could Bring Long-Term Risks to California’s Individual Market

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The Trump administration is considering changes to federal rules regulating short-term, limited-duration insurance (“short-term plans”) that could result in the expansion of these plans in California.

This report, written by Georgetown University’s Center on Health Insurance Reforms, provides an overview of short-term plans and the current market for these plans in California. It explains how changes to federal policy around short-term plans might affect California’s individual health insurance market and describes policies that various states are pursuing in response to these changes.

Key points include:

  • Short-term plans are exempt from the Affordable Care Act’s consumer protections. Insurers can deny coverage based on preexisting conditions, not cover certain services, and limit what they will pay for services. For example, many short-term plans currently available in California do not cover maternity and newborn care, mental health and substance use services, and outpatient prescription drugs. They also limit the total amount that plans will pay per day in the hospital and for particular services, such as surgeon fees, in addition to imposing a maximum the plan will spend toward claims covered by the policy.
  • Short-term plans are rare right now in California, but that could change. There is only one insurer currently selling approved short-term plans in California, and fewer than 10,000 policies in effect across the state. But if the Trump administration changes federal rules, and there is no change in California law, enrollment in short-term plans is likely to grow. Under these conditions, the Urban Institute projects that over 600,000 Californians would enroll in short-term plans in 2019.
  • Enrollment in short-term plans could contribute to destabilizing Covered California and increasing premiums. Short-term plans are likely to siphon off healthier and younger consumers from Covered California, which would increase premiums for those remaining in the ACA-compliant market.
  • States are taking action. Colorado, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island have taken steps to ensure that short-term plans don’t destabilize their individual health insurance markets. A bill is currently pending in the California legislature banning short-term plans altogether.

The full report is available under Related Materials below.


Implications of the ACA Medicaid Expansion: A Look at the Data and Evidence—_5Fv1E9o8N-QMLre_-D8vappg_hIyVaFZ8cEthhG3ux3ABfRRe3r2VTt4COWzZZkXPBZEkrzeAVpzG3fCAi9czIo_Q&_hsmi=62972269&utm_content=62972269&utm_source=hs_email&hsCtaTracking=d98d50ea-2525-4765-a9df-3733329069e8%7Ce7c702da-2e02-40f7-a287-0ea376764abb


More than four years after the implementation of the Medicaid expansion included in the Affordable Care Act, debate and controversy around the implications of the expansion continue. Despite a large body of research that shows that the Medicaid expansion results in gains in coverage, improvements in access and financial security, and economic benefits for states and providers, some argue that the Medicaid expansion has broadened the program beyond its original intent diverting spending from the “truly needy”, offers poor quality and limited access to providers, and has increased state costs. New proposals allow states to implement policies never approved before including conditioning Medicaid eligibility on work or community engagement. New complex requirements run counter to the post-ACA movement of Medicaid integration with other health programs and streamlined enrollment processes. This brief examines evidence of the effects of the Medicaid expansion and some changes being implemented through waivers. Many of the findings on the effects of expansion cited in this brief are drawn from the 202 studies included in our comprehensive literature review that includes additional citations on coverage, access, and economic effects of the Medicaid expansion. Key findings include the following:

  • Coverage: Research and data show that Medicaid expansion has resulted in coverage gains without diverting coverage from traditional groups; for example, data do not support a relationship between states’ expansion status and community-based services waiver waiting lists. Reductions in Medicaid coverage would result in an increase in the uninsured population.
  • Access, Affordability, and Health Outcomes: Research demonstrates that Medicaid generally, and expansion specifically, positively affects access to care, utilization of services, the affordability of care, and financial security among the low-income population. While there is a growing body of evidence on Medicaid and outcomes, further research is needed to more fully determine the health effect of expansion on outcomes given that measureable changes take time to occur.
  • Economic Effects: Analyses find positive economic effects of expansion largely tied to the infusion of federal dollars, despite Medicaid enrollment growth initially exceeding projections in many states. Some studies look at 2014-2016 when expansion costs were 100% financed by the federal government, others studies project net fiscal gains even after states start to pay a share of expansion costs (up to 10% by 2020). Studies also show that Medicaid expansion resulted in reductions in uninsured visits and uncompensated care costs for hospitals, clinics, and other providers.
  • Expansion and Work: Studies find that Medicaid expansion has had positive or neutral effects on employment and the labor market and new work requirement proposals add complexity and could result in coverage losses for many who are working or face barriers to work.


Americans’ Confidence in Their Ability to Pay for Health Care Is Falling

President Trump is expected to soon address the nation about the rising cost of prescription drugs. But Americans are worried about more than drug prices. New findings from the Commonwealth Fund Affordable Care Act Tracking Survey show that consumers’ confidence in their ability to afford all their needed health care continues to decline.

Last week, we reported that the survey indicated a small but significant increase in the uninsured rate among working-age adults since 2016. In this post, we look at people’s views of the affordability of their health care. The Affordable Care Act Tracking Survey is a nationally representative telephone survey conducted by SSRS that tracks coverage rates among 19-to-64-year-olds, and has focused in particular on the experiences of adults who have gained coverage through the marketplaces and Medicaid. The latest wave of the survey was conducted between February and March 2018.1


Confidence in Ability to Afford Health Care Continues to Decline

In each wave of the survey, we’ve asked respondents whether they have confidence in their ability to afford health care if they were to become seriously ill. In 2018, 62.4 percent of adults said they were very or somewhat confident they could afford their health care, down from a high of nearly 70 percent in 2015 (Table 1). Only about half of people with incomes less than 250 percent of poverty ($30,150 for an individual) were confident they could afford care if they were to become very sick, down from 60 percent in 2015 and about 20 percentage points lower than the rate for adults with higher incomes. There were also significant declines in confidence among young adults, those ages 50 to 64, women, and people with health problems. Declines were significant among both Democrats and Republicans.

People in Employer Plans Have the Greatest Confidence in Their Insurance

We asked people with health insurance how confident they were that their current insurance will help them afford the health care they need this year. Majorities of adults were somewhat or very confident in their coverage; those with employer coverage were the most confident. More than half (55%) of adults insured through an employer were very confident their coverage would help them afford their care compared to 31 percent of adults with individual market coverage and 41 percent of people with Medicaid (Table 2). The least confident were adults enrolled in Medicare. Working-age adults enrolled in Medicare were the sickest among insured adults and the second-poorest after those covered by Medicaid (data not shown).2

One-Quarter of Adults Said Health Care Became Harder to Afford

We asked people whether, over the past year, their health care, including prescription drugs, had become harder for them to afford, easier to afford, or if there had been no change. The majority (66%) said there had been no change, one-quarter (24%) said it had become harder to afford, and 8 percent said it had become easier (Table 3). People with individual market coverage were significantly more likely than those with employer coverage or Medicaid to say health care had become harder to afford. About one-third of adults with deductibles of $1,000 or more said health care had become harder to afford, twice the share of those who had no deductible. About one-third of those enrolled in Medicare and 41 percent who were uninsured also reported that their health care had become harder to afford.

Only About Half of Americans Would Have Money to Pay for an Unexpected Medical Bill

Accidents and other medical emergencies can leave both uninsured and insured people with unexpected medical bills, which usually require prompt payment. We asked people if they would have the money to pay a $1,000 medical bill within 30 days in the case of an unexpected medical event. Nearly half (46%) said they would not have the money to cover such a bill in that time frame (Table 4). Women, people of color, people who are uninsured, those covered by Medicaid or Medicare, and those with incomes under 250 percent of poverty were among the most likely to say they couldn’t pay the bill.

Health Care Is Among People’s Top Four Greatest Personal Financial Concerns

Fourteen percent of adults said that health care was their biggest personal financial concern, after mortgage or rent (23%), student loans (17%), and retirement (17%) (Table 5). Those most likely to cite health care as their greatest financial concern were people who could potentially face high out-of-pocket costs because they were uninsured or had high-deductible health plans.

Policy Implications

Uninsured adults are the least confident in their ability to pay medical bills. But the risk of high out-of-pocket health care costs doesn’t end when someone enrolls in a health plan. The proliferation and growth of high-deductible health plans in both the individual and employer insurance markets is leaving people with unaffordable health care costs. Many adults enrolled in Medicare for reasons of disability or serious illness also report unease about their health care costs. An estimated 41 million insured adults have such high out-of-pocket costs and deductibles relative to their incomes that they are effectively underinsured. As this survey indicates, the nation’s health care cost burden is felt disproportionately by people with low and moderate incomes, people of color, and women.

The ACA’s reforms to the individual insurance market have doubled the number of people who now get insurance on that market to an estimated 17 million, with approximately half receiving subsidies through the ACA marketplaces. The ACA also has made it possible for people who were regularly denied coverage by insurers — older Americans and those with health problems — to get insurance. They are now entitled by law to an offer should they want to buy a plan.

But as this survey suggests, the ACA’s reforms did not fully resolve the individual market’s relatively higher costs for all those enrolled, compared to employer coverage or Medicaid. Moreover, recent actions by Congress and the Trump administration, including the repeal of the individual mandate penalty and loosened restrictions on plans that don’t comply with the ACA, are expected to exacerbate those costs for many. In the survey, people with individual market coverage are more likely than those with employer coverage or Medicaid to say that their health care, including prescription drugs, has become harder to afford in the past year. They express less confidence than those with employer coverage that their insurance will help them afford their care this year. As explained in the first post, there are a number of policy options that Congress can pursue that would improve individual market insurance’s affordability and cost protection. In the absence of bipartisan Congressional agreement on legislation, several states are currently pursuing their own solutions. But if current trends continue, the federal government will likely confront growing pressure to provide a national solution to America’s incipient health care affordability crisis.






Gubernatorial Hopefuls Look To Health Care For Election Edge

Gubernatorial Hopefuls Look To Health Care For Election Edge


California’s leading gubernatorial candidates agree that health care should work better for Golden State residents: Insurance should be more affordable, costs are unreasonably high, and robust competition among hospitals, doctors and other providers could help lower prices, they told California Healthline.

What they don’t agree on is how to achieve those goals — not even the Democrats who represent the state’s dominant party.

“Health care gives them the perfect chance to crystalize that divide” between the left-wing progressives and the “moderate pragmatists” of the Democratic Party, said Thad Kousser, a political science professor at the University of California-San Diego.

Consider the top two Democratic candidates, who both aim to cover everyone in the state, including immigrants living here without authorization.

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom — billed as a liberal Democrat — supports a single-payer health care system. That means gutting the health insurance industry to create one taxpayer-funded health care program for everyone in the state.

But former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has called single-payer “unrealistic.” He advocates achieving universal health coverage through incremental changes to the current system.

Under California’s “top-two” primary system, candidates for state or congressional office will appear on the same June 5 ballot, regardless of party affiliation. The top two vote-getters advance to the November general election.

A poll in late April by the University of California-Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies puts Newsom in first place with the support of 30 percent of likely voters, followed by Republicans John Cox, with 18 percent, and Travis Allen with 16 percent. Trailing behind were Democrats Villaraigosa, with 9 percent, John Chiang with 7 percent and Delaine Eastin with 4 percent. Thirteen percent of likely voters remained undecided.

Health care is in the forefront of this year’s gubernatorial campaign because of recent federal attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which would have threatened the coverage of millions of Californians, said Kim Nalder, professor of political science at California State University-Sacramento. California has pushed back hard against Republican efforts in Congress to dismantle the law.

“There’s more energy in California around the idea of universal coverage than you see in lots of other parts of the country,” Nalder said. Democrats and those who indicate no party preference make up almost 70 percent of registered voters. Those voters care more about health coverage than Republicans, she said.

“Whoever is most supportive [of universal health care] is likely to win the votes,” she said.

The top Republican candidates, Cox and Allen, are not fans of increased government involvement, however. They favor more market competition and less regulation to lower costs, expand choice and improve quality.

“Governments make everything more expensive,” said Cox, a former adviser to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich during his presidential run. “The private sector looks for efficiencies.”

California Healthline reached out to the top six candidates based on the institute’s poll, asking about their positions on health insurance, drug prices, the opioid epidemic and hospital consolidation.

Payer trade groups slam short-term health plan proposal


More organizations, including Aetna and the American Medical Association, submitted comments on the proposed rule Monday.

Dive Brief:

  • 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.

Dive Insight:

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.

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.



Health Care’s New ‘Skinny Plans’: Winners and Losers

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Trump’s ‘skinny plans’ offer a cheaper alternative to the Affordable Care Act, but may have far less coverage.


New, more-limited health plans may draw consumers away from Affordable Care Act coverage and drive up prices on insurance sold in the health law’s marketplaces. These “skinny” plans offer lower premiums, making them an attractive alternative for young, healthy buyers.

New, more-limited health plans may draw consumers away from Affordable Care Act coverage and drive up prices on insurance sold in the health law’s marketplaces.

These “skinny” plans offer lower premiums, making them an attractive alternative for young, healthy buyers.

Why health care costs are making consumers more afraid of medical bills than an actual illness

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  • Health care costs are spiraling higher, but patient visits to a doctor have been on the decline.
  • A growing number of consumers are staying away out of fear of big bills.
  • However, “untimely visits or delay of visits to the physician ultimately leads to the increased cost of care,” the Cleveland Clinic’s CEO told CNBC.


As health care costs keep rising, more people seem to be skipping physician visits.

It’s not fear of doctors, however, but more of a phobia about the bills that could follow. Higher deductibles and out-of-network fees are just some of the out-of-pocket costs that can hit a consumer’s pockets.

U.S. health care costs keep rising, and hit more than $10,000 a year per person in 2016. According to a recent national poll, over the past 12 months, 44 percent of Americans said they didn’t go to the doctor when they were sick or injured because of financial concerns. Meanwhile, 40 percent said they skipped a recommended medical test or treatment.

Also, the study found most people who are delaying or skipping care actually have health insurance. Some 86 percent of those surveyed said they’re covered either through their employer, have insurance they purchased directly, or through government programs like Medicare and Medicaid.

“There have been so many changes in the health care landscape in the United States that this news is not entirely surprising,” Cleveland Clinic president and CEO Tom Mihaljevic told CNBC’s “On the Money” in a recent interview. However, Mihaljevic warned that skipping visits or treatment can be counterproductive.

“One of most important consequences of skipping medical care or delaying care ultimately impacts the quality of care, impacts the outcome,” he said. “Untimely visits or delay of visits to the physician ultimately leads to the increased cost of care.”

However, the poll, conducted by the University of Chicago and the West Health Institute, found Americans fear large medical bills more than they do serious illness. The data showed 33 percent of those surveyed were “extremely afraid” or “very afraid” of getting seriously ill. About 40 percent said paying for health care is more frightening than the illness itself.

“Part of problem here is healthcare tends to be very complex, and every patient typically requires a number of procedures and tests to be done, so it’s really difficult to estimate the upfront cost of care, ” Mihaljevic told CNBC.

Additionally, the survey found 54 percent of those polled received one or more medical bills over the past year for something they thought was covered by their insurance. And 53 percent received a bill that was higher than they expected.

Mihaljevic acknowledged the range of different fees for the same services should be made clearer for consumers. “There is an absolute need for increased transparency when it comes to cost and this is one of mandates for our industry as a whole,” he said.

How technology can help

To combat rising health costs, Mihaljevic explained that the Cleveland Clinic is focused on the “standardization of care.”

“When we reduce the variability of the way we take care of patients, we manage to decrease the cost and at the same time improve the quality of care that we provide,” he added.

In addition, the health system is also pushing ahead with advances in medical technology, which may help bring down costs in the future. “We firmly believe digital technology is going to have a transformative effect,” Mihaljevic said. Among the initiatives is a partnership with IBM Watson to use big data to help clinical decision making.

And through the Cleveland Clinic’s Express Care Online, 25,000 virtual doctor visits were completed in 2017. Although virtual visits are billed as more cost effective,new data suggest otherwise.

“We are constantly looking how to make our care more accessible more affordable and of higher quality,” Mihaljevic added.