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How Expanded Access to Short-Term Health Plans Will Affect Patients With Cancer

Jaime Rosenberg

The Trump administration’s proposed rule on short-term, limited-duration health plans will have a significant impact on patients with cancer, according to a National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship (NCCS) webcast Thursday.

The webcast, entitled “Short-Term Health Plans: What You Need to Know and What You Can Do,” provided an in-depth look on how expanded access to short-term health plans will particularly affect patients with cancer and cancer survivors, as well as a way for these patients to submit comments to the administration on the proposed rule.

In February, the Trump administration proposed a rule extending the time period that Americans can stay in short-term, limited-duration health insurance plans from 3 months to 12 months. The administration introduced the proposed change with the intent of providing affordable coverage options for individuals and families who cannot afford premiums for policies that meet the full requirements set by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), such as 10 essential health benefits and protections against preexisting condition exclusions.

Critics of the proposed rule have said that the short-term health plans discriminate against patients with preexisting conditions, have high cost sharing, and provide less extensive insurance coverage.

During the NCCS webcast, presenters said that these effects would be particularly significant for patients with cancer and survivors of cancer because the policies permitted under the short-term, limited-duration proposal are inadequate for this patient population.

According to JoAnn Volk, MA, senior research professor at the Georgetown Center on Health Insurance Reform, patients with cancer and cancer survivors may experience difficulty purchasing a short-term health plan because the plans don’t guarantee availability to individuals with preexisting conditions. Even if they are accepted into a plan, they might not have coverage for what they need, including prescription drugs to manage the disease, said Volk.

Shortly after the administration proposed the change, an Urban Institute report estimated that 4.2 million people would enroll in the expanded short-term plans and that premiums in the states that don’t limit or prohibit short-term health plans would increase by approximately 18%.

“If young and healthy Americans choose the short-term, limited-duration plans, the remaining individual market will become more expensive for cancer patients who rely on it, and their insurance options will become more limited,” said Shelley Fuld Nasso, MPP, CEO of NCCS. Nasso also pointed out that while an individual may be healthy when they purchase the plan, if they later get diagnosed with cancer, they would suffer from the limited coverage.

Volk added that as healthy individuals leave the ACA plans and instead opt for short-term plans, the pool of ACA enrollees will get sicker and fewer insurers may be willing to participate in the ACA market, which will further drive up premiums.

As the rule is open for public comment until April 23, Lindsay Houff, MPP, public policy manager at NCCS, encouraged patients with cancer and cancer survivors to submit comments that explain the potential impact the proposed rule would have on the patient population.
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