The National MS Society, along with 105 other coalition partner groups, urged the US Department of Health and Human Services
to withdraw a proposed rule on Short-Term Limited-Duration health insurance plans.
In March 2017, the Society, along with a coalition of health advocacy oganizations, agreed upon three overarching principles we would use to guide and measure any work to reform and improve the nation’s healthcare system. These principles state that:
- healthcare must be adequate, meaning that healthcare coverage should cover treatments patients need including all the services in the essential health benefits (EHB) package;
- healthcare should be affordable, enabling patients to access the treatments they need to live healthy and productive lives; and
- healthcare should be accessible, meaning that coverage should be easy to understand and not pose a barrier to care, the enrollment process should be easy to undertake, and benefits should be clearly defined.
Currently, individuals on short-term plans can keep them for up to 3 months only, because they are meant to serve as transitional coverage under unusual circumstances. The rule proposes to extend that timeframe to nearly 12 months, and to allow them to be renewed indefinitely. That would make “short-term plans" an alternative to the comprehensive health insurance plans sold through the Marketplace (Heatlhcare.gov). Short-term insurance is not a long-term solution for many people – including people living with pre-existing conditions and chronic illnesses. While short-term plans can offer cheaper premiums for some consumers, insurers who sell them are not required to meet important requirements and protections, including:
- Guaranteed issue – meaning insurers could deny or limit coverage for people with pre-existing conditions;
- Comprehensive benefits including the Essential Health Benefits;
- Ban on lifetime and annual limits of coverage; and
- Annual caps on out-of-pocket costs.
The 106 organizations in the coalition represent millions of patients, individuals, caregivers, and families who need access to quality and affordable healthcare regardless of their income or geographic location. Given the history of discrimination and inadequate coverage within short-term limited-duration plans, the coalition remains deeply concerned that the proposed rule could seriously undermine the key principles of access, adequacy, and affordability that are the underpinnings of current law – and put those we represent at enormous risk.
National MS Society District Activist Leaders submitted more than 100 individual comments to US Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Azar opposing the rule and joined the #ProtectPatientsNow social media campaign. A total of 3,000 comments were submitted through the coalition’s efforts. Additionally, the Society endorsed the opposition letters to Secretary Azar from other coalitions including: the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, I Am Essential, and The Coalition to Preserve Rehabilitation.
As leaders in the healthcare and research communities and staunch patient and consumer advocates, we look forward to working alongside the coalition with the Departments of the Treasury, Labor, and Health and Human Services’ leadership and staff on the direction of such important public policy.