Jim Spencer at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune recently wrote about U.S. Senate opponents of short-term medical (STM) plans attempting yet again to overturn the STM rule changes enacted in February of last year. The battle lines on this policy issue are the same as always: one side supporting greater choice in health care, and the other highlighting its concerns about the quality of the STM plans themselves, particularly relative to Affordable Care Act plans with broader coverage.
Spencer boils down the issues succinctly:
The White House says extending the length of these policies from 90 days to up to three years offers an affordable alternative for Americans who do not qualify for premium subsidies under the Affordable Care Act and cannot afford the premiums that come with the ACA’s mandatory coverages. The Trump rule allows ACA subsidies to be used to promote sales of short-term policies.
Those who want to curb the expansion say it will undermine the nation’s individual insurance market and health care reform by drawing away millions of the healthiest participants from the coverage pool.
It would be good news for consumers if these changes to STM plans last. I have said again and again that one of the main problems in American health care is the absence of price competition that would allow consumers to shop for health insurance products like they shop for other items—by comparing benefits, assessing costs, and making buying decisions that comport with their personal needs. More liberalized short-term medical insurance policies provide at least some of that flexibility in the insurance marketplace by providing less expensive coverage, albeit with fewer features.
Is short-term medical insurance for everyone? Of course not. But that decision should be for consumers to decide, not the U.S. Senate.