Senators' letter thrusts 'junk insurance' back into limelight

Forty senators penned a letter calling on HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra to implement more consumer protections against "junk insurance."

The term describes plans that are offered with low premiums, but offer little coverage with high deductibles. Previous efforts to allow payers to circumvent ACA protections and sell junk insurance plans have been met with opposition from payer advocates.

The senators' Feb. 14 letter calls for regulations to limit the sale and availability of short-term, limited coverage junk insurance plans. The plans "sow confusion and cause harm" because of their ability to skirt standards that apply to most health plans and allow them to prey on disadvantaged consumers, according to the letter. 

Specifically, the senators call on HHS to restore a three-month duration limit for plans, make renewing plans more difficult and limit the ability of consumers to purchase back-to-back junk plans. The proposals would also remove these plans from marketplaces during open enrollment periods. 

Moves to limit the sale and promotion of junk plans as the letter proposes would undo 2018 guidance implemented under the Trump administration.

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