Provider groups, Democrats ratchet up pressure on short-term plans

Stack of health insurance application forms with stethoscope on top
As medical groups urge the courts to invalidate the short-term plan rule, Democrats plan to force a vote on the issue this week. (Getty/vinnstock)

As the healthcare industry awaits a Texas court decision on the fate of the Affordable Care Act, momentum is building to put a halt to the Trump administration’s expansion of short-term insurance plans.

Some of the most prominent provider groups in the country came out in support of a lawsuit filed by the Association for Community Affiliated Plans and six other organizations to invalidate a rule that allows insurers to sell short-term limited-duration plans for up to three years.

An amicus brief (PDF) filed by the American Medical Association (AMA), the American College of Physicians, the American Academy of Family Physicians and five other physician groups representing nearly 1 million doctors argued that the rule would be “devastating to the health, well-being, and pocketbooks of millions of Americans,” particularly those with chronic conditions.

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The groups argued that the rule would “sabotage” the ACA by providing skimpier coverage to consumers and drive up premiums for exchange plans by siphoning off healthy individuals.

“There is no dispute that this will occur if the rule goes into effect; the Defendants themselves acknowledge it,” the groups wrote about the rule that was finalized in July

HHS officials have argued that the plans will expand consumer choice and have a minimal effect on ACA exchanges. But the CMS' actuary has said as many as 800,000 consumers would flee the marketplace.

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Similarly, a dozen specialty groups led by the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association filed a separate brief (PDF) arguing that the rule would force consumers to delay necessary care that “can be the difference between life and death.”

Meanwhile, Senate Democrats are set to vote on a resolution led by Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc., that would overturn the Trump administration’s expansion of short-term plans.

The vote is scheduled for Wednesday and with 49 senators on board, Democrats need just two Republicans to cross the line to overturn the rule. With the midterms just a few weeks away, the move appears to be an attempt to force the hand of Republicans that insist they want to maintain protections for pre-existing conditions.

In a statement issued by the Office of Management and Budget, the White House promised to veto the measure arguing it would "reduce affordable healthcare options for American families already struggling to cope with rising health insurance premiums."

“Anyone who says they support health care coverage for people with pre-existing conditions should support this resolution,” Baldwin said in a statement on Tuesday. “This is an opportunity for Democrats and Republicans to protect people’s access to quality, affordable health care when they need it most.”