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Winter Storm Avery takes lives, puts the brakes on commutes across the Northeast. Also on our Friday rundown: A first-of-its-kind report calls for policies to ease transitions of young people living in foster care. And "got gratitude" this holiday season? It could benefit your health.

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"Skinny" Health Plans May Hike Rates for Older ACA Enrollees

The U.S. Census Bureau said just 4.3 percent of Iowa's population was without health insurance in 2017, having dropped by 23,000 since the Affordable Care Act was introduced. (wiruralhealth.org)
The U.S. Census Bureau said just 4.3 percent of Iowa's population was without health insurance in 2017, having dropped by 23,000 since the Affordable Care Act was introduced. (wiruralhealth.org)
October 26, 2018

DES MOINES, Iowa – Some health experts are warning that insurance rates could rise significantly for people in the individual market who are between 50 and 64, or have a pre-existing condition – once states start taking advantage of new flexibility granted this week by the Trump administration.

States can now redirect federal subsidies to people buying cheaper, so called “skinny” plans that do not offer the minimum benefits required under the A-C-A.

Sabrina Corlette, a research professor at the Georgetown University Center on Health Insurance Reforms, says the new plans will be able to reject people because of their age or health status.

"They can deny people outright if they have a health condition that they don't want to cover,” she points out. “They can cap your benefits. They cannot cover major benefits like prescription drugs or preventive care. They are really completely unregulated."

Supporters of the new federal guidance say the less comprehensive plans will encourage more young, healthy people to buy insurance.

Each state will still be required to offer more comprehensive, ACA-compliant plans, but Corlette predicts the pool of people left in them will be older and sicker, which will lead insurance companies to raise rates or leave the ACA market altogether.

Iowa lawmakers have already agreed to let the Iowa Farm Bureau sell alternative or "skinny" coverage when it goes on sale, but only to Farm Bureau members. The bureau says applicants may be asked about pre-existing conditions and might either pay more or be turned away.

Corlette warns more flexible state plans may not prove to be cheaper.

"If you are between 50 and 64, the affordability of insurance, if you have to buy it on your own, is going to vary,” she explains. “And there are some states, in the name of greater choices – particularly for young and healthy people, you know – the trade-off is that insurance becomes more expensive for people who are older, who have pre-existing conditions."

If states are granted a waiver under the new rules, the new types of plans could come onto the market in 2020.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - IA