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Consumer Advocates Urge Governor to Limit Short-Term Health Plans

Some short-term plans restrict prescription drugs and don't include the "essential protections" of the Affordable Care Act. (Flickr)
Some short-term plans restrict prescription drugs and don't include the "essential protections" of the Affordable Care Act. (Flickr)
September 10, 2018

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Groups fighting to keep California's health care system on track are calling on Gov. Jerry Brown to sign Senate Bill 910 which would limit short-term insurance plans.

The Trump administration finalized new rules in August to allow so-called skinny plans to remain in force for three years, claiming it will increase competition and offer a lower-cost alternative. But State Sen. Ed Hernandez, who authored the bill, called the plans "junk insurance" that will rob consumers of important protections.

"They don't realize that they can get kicked off with a pre-existing condition. There's no max amount of out-of-pocket expenses, so if they get some kind of devastating health condition, it could lead them into bankruptcy," Hernandez said. "So I don't think it's in the best interest of the state of California."

The short-term plans are exempt from the requirements of the Affordable Care Act, so many don't cover mental health, maternity or pediatric care.

Supporters of SB 910 argue the plans could lure young, healthy people out of the Covered California insurance market. The result would be more older, sicker people in the risk pool, which would drive premiums sky-high.

Brown has until September 30 to sign the bill, veto it, or let it become law without his signature.

Brown also is considering a bill that would limit the sale of association health plans, one that would prevent eligibility restrictions requiring Medi-Cal recipients to work, and another to safeguard ACA rules that require health plans to spend 80 percent of their premiums on health care. Hernandez said President Donald Trump is playing politics with people's lives by undermining the ACA.

"I think it's political sabotage to destabilize the market. I think he's playing to the base,” Hernandez said. “At the end of the day, this is a system that's working and I think it's just pure politics to try to repeal it."

Republicans have tried and failed several times to repeal the ACA. However, they did pass the Tax Bill, which removed the federal mandate to buy insurance.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - CA