Buyer Beware: Inexpensive Health Plans Often Not What They Seem

By Sarah Gantz
The Philadelphia Inquirer

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) New cheaper “association health plans” through which small businesses buy insurance together, will be able to omit some previously required basic benefits.

The Philadelphia Inquirer

The Trump administration approved new insurance rules this week that will make it easier for people to buy skimpy health plans, and possibly wind up with insurance that falls short of their expectations.

Under the federal health-care law, all plans sold to individuals and small businesses were required to cover a list of basic benefits, such as maternity, mental-health services, and prescription drugs. Now, association health plans, through which small businesses buy insurance together, will be able to omit some of those benefits.

The Trump administration has also proposed rules to loosen regulations on short-term health plans, which can cost as little as $25 a month, but often do not cover many of the services that people have come to expect.

When the individual mandate, which required people to buy comprehensive health insurance, is eliminated in January, people will be free to buy these anemic health plans without paying a tax penalty.

Health insurance is inherently expensive and rock-bottom premium prices can be tantalizing. But like a jalopy with a candy apple paint job, the cheapest health plans often aren’t what they seem.

Unsure what to look for, people often buy insurance based on how much it will cost them every month and unknowingly end up with a plan that doesn’t cover certain services, has a limited doctor network, or other shortcomings that lead to big bills.

“People have come to believe that health insurance is fairly comprehensive because that’s what the Affordable Care Act did,” said Joel Cantor, director of the Center for State Health Policy at Rutgers University. “But that’s step by step being undone.”

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