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Final rule on short-term insurance plans will leave people with pre-existing conditions with high costs, less coverage

August 1, 2018

Today, the National MS Society joins patient and consumer groups representing millions of patients with preexisting health conditions, in response to a rule released today by the U.S. Departments of Labor, Treasury and Health and Human Services expanding the use of short-term, limited-duration insurance plans (STLDs). During the public comment period, MS activists, the Society and many patient and disability organizations submitted comments in opposition to STLDs. 

“Short-term health insurance plans are basically “junk” health insurance plans,” says Kim Calder, Senior Director of Health Policy at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.   “They are cheaper than other options for a reason – they don’t cover much and they exclude people with pre-existing conditions, including people living with MS.”

The Society opposes expanding eligibility of short term-limited duration plans and was among the 95% of health care groups to do so in response to proposals for expanding them at the federal level.  Short-term plans can currently be used for up to three months, but the final rule allows people to have them for up to one year and renew them—for a maximum duration of 36 months. Coverage won’t be “guaranteed renewable,” however, meaning insurers could increase rates or deny policies based on health status. The effect of expanding and promoting STLDs will be devastating to the individual health insurance market as younger and healthier people abandon it for cheaper short-term plans, leaving people with higher-cost health needs in insurance plans with no choice but to increase premiums or drop out of the market altogether. The final rule states that the plans go into effect in 60 days.

“Now that federal regulators have ignored all warnings of the harm associated with short-term, limited-duration plans, the Society urges state lawmakers to protect their residents by limiting short-term, limited-duration plans at the state level. People with MS and other pre-existing conditions need access to comprehensive health coverage they can afford. We need leadership and real solutions to the crisis of un-affordable health insurance and care,” says Calder.

Expanding short-term limited-duration plans is one of many actions being taken that threaten quality, affordable coverage for people with pre-existing conditions. On June 19, 2018 the Society joined 25 patient and consumer groups on the attached statement expressing concern over increasing the availability of Association Health Plans—which similarly weaken protections and are expected to increase costs.

About Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body. Symptoms range from numbness and tingling to blindness and paralysis. The progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot yet be predicted, but advances in research and treatment are leading to better understanding and moving us closer to a world free of MS. Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, with at least two to three times more women than men being diagnosed with the disease. MS affects more than 2.3 million people worldwide.

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