Report Raps Short-Term Health Policies

May 16, 2019

Short-term insurance policies may provide health choices for consumers, but they could be bad for patients’ financial health, a new report from the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network said. 

The group studied short-term plans in Florida and six other states and found that while monthly premiums may be low, out-of-pocket costs for services can be high. The analysis was based on a hypothetical 57-year-old female non-smoker who passed initial medical underwriting but developed cancer after she purchased a policy.

Under a policy sold in Florida, the woman would have incurred more than $63,000 in cost sharing related to treatment had she gotten diagnosed with cancer within the first month of coverage. The compares to $7,900 in out-of-pocket costs for in-network care under a health insurance policy compliant with the federal Affordable Care Act.

The Trump administration issued a pair of rules last year that allow the sale of short-term renewable policies for upward of three years. The plans can exclude coverage of preexisting conditions and benefits such as hospitalization, emergency services, maternity care, preventive care, prescription drugs and mental-health and substance-use disorder services.

Florida lawmakers this spring approved changing state laws to give insurers the green light to sell short-term policies. The bill (SB 322) has not formally been sent to Gov. Ron DeSantis. Heather Youmans, senior director of government relations for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, said her organization has “serious concerns about the bill.”

However, Youmans said it hasn’t decided how to proceed or whether to ask for a veto. “We worked with several coalition partners (American Lung Association, Leukemia and Lymphoma Society) in opposing the bill as it moved through the process and we want to make sure we’re lined up before we proceed,” Youmans said in a statement.

While Republicans have railed against the Affordable Care Act, some features --- such as protections for people with pre-existing conditions --- are popular with Florida voters.

The bill passed this spring would make clear that if Obamacare is repealed by Congress or struck down by the United States Supreme Court, insurance companies in Florida would be required to offer at least one policy to the hundreds of thousands of people who have pre-existing conditions.