Junk plans or expanded choice? Short-term plans elicit a range of reactions

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) finalized a rule to expand short-term, limited duration (STLD) plans on Wednesday, sparking a wave of reactions.

Matt Eyles, president and CEO of America’s Health Insurance Plans, was tepid.

“Consumers deserve more choices,” Eyles said in a statement. “We remain concerned that consumers who rely on short-term plans for an extended time period will face high medical bills when they need care that isn’t covered or exceed their coverage limits.”

He added, however, “The new requirement for short-term plans to make clearer disclosures to consumers is an important improvement. We also appreciate that the rule affirms the role of states to regulate these plans, including the option to reduce the duration period for short-term coverage.”

“The Trump administration is bringing hardship and suffering to millions of women and families who will purchase junk plans that discriminate in pricing, fail to cover essential women’s health services such as birth control and maternity care, and deny purchasers the consumer protections all families need and deserve,” Ness wrote.

RELATED: Azar: Short-term plans 'absolutely not' an attempt to destabilize the individual market

Mikka Macdonald, a spokesperson for accountability organization Health Care Voter, felt similarly.

“Junk insurance plans are no more than the Republican Party’s latest, poorly-veiled attempt to tear down the Affordable Care Act and let insurance companies profit off of American working families,” Macdonald said in a statement via e-mail.

Senator Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., who also chairs the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, felt more optimistic. In a statement, Alexander wrote, “Millions of Americans who are between jobs and who pay for their own insurance will welcome this extended option for lower-cost, short-term, renewable policies.”

Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc., took a decidedly different stance. 

“We cannot let the Trump Administration and big insurance companies rewrite the rules on the guaranteed health care protections that people depend on because no family should be forced to choose between helping a loved one get better or going bankrupt," she said in a statement. "These junk plans don’t have to cover prescription drugs, mental health services, substance abuse treatment, maternity care, and people with pre-existing conditions." 

The rule also received applause from Freedom Partners, a conservative organization partially funded by the Koch brothers. STLD plans “expand choice in health insurance markets for the millions of men and women hurt most by Obamacare,” wrote the organization’s vice president, Nathan Nascimento.

STLD plans cost less than plans offered through the individual market but cover much fewer services. The Affordable Care Act permitted STLD plans for up to three months; the new rule makes them available for a year.