Senators continue fight against 'junk' health plans

Federal lawmakers are once again calling on HHS and the Biden administration to take action against "junk" short-term health plans, especially as Medicaid redeterminations loom.

"Since President Biden took office, he has prioritized expanding access to comprehensive, affordable health coverage. Congress has supported these efforts," the Feb. 22 letter from 34 Democratic senators said. "It is past time for your department to step up and address the expansion and proliferation of junk plans." 

Junk plans are short-term plans that don't have to cover preexisting conditions and are allowed to bypass the ACA's requirement to cover services such as maternity care and mental health treatments. Short-term plans also engage in practices such as retroactive coverage rescissions, medical underwriting, and lifetime or annual caps.

Last May, Senate lawmakers questioned HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra over when and how the Biden administration will take action against junk plans.

"We are in the midst of rulemaking," Mr. Becerra said at the time. "As you know, rulemaking can take a little while, but we started that process because of what you've explained. It does happen. Junk plans are leaving Americans with these tremendously expensive bills."

In previous letters to HHS, senators have called for restoring a three-month duration limit for plans, making renewing plans more difficult, and limiting the ability of consumers to purchase back-to-back junk plans. The past proposals would also remove junk plans from ACA marketplaces during open enrollment periods.

The Feb. 22 letter comes as states are preparing for Medicaid redeterminations that begin April 1. The nation has been under continuous Medicaid enrollment since early 2020, raising total Medicaid/CHIP enrollment by 19.5 million — a more than 30 percent increase in the program. When states begin determining who is and is not eligible for Medicaid once again this spring, an estimated 15 million to 18 million people in total are facing a loss of health coverage, including 6.7 million children.

States have until May 2024 to complete the redetermination process. The Inflation Reduction Act extended ACA premium tax credits through the end of 2025, which will allow some Medicaid members to regain coverage through the federal or state marketplaces.

Copyright © 2024 Becker's Healthcare. All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy. Cookie Policy. Linking and Reprinting Policy.


Top 40 articles from the past 6 months