Short-term Health Plans are Getting Longer Shelf Lives

Nov 12, 2018

One of the issues that became a campaign theme this year was protection for people who have preexisting medical conditions.

Members of the General Assembly are about to consider a state change that could have significant consequences.

Temporary health insurance is the idea behind a kind of policy known as short-term, limited duration plans. Originally they were designed for people who were expecting gaps in coverage, like those transitioning from school to work.

Sabrina Corlette at Georgetown University says recent changes to federal rules means they have now taken on a new significance. “What the Trump administration has done is said we’re going to allow these plans to be sold not just for the short term but for a full year so that they resemble traditional health insurance. But of course they don’t have to comply with the same rules.”

Protecting people with pre-existing conditions, for example. Some of the plans don’t cover frequently used services. Others can lead to steep out-of-pocket costs.

Some states have taken action in response to these new federal rules like limiting the duration of the plans. “Others have said we want a level playing field, and if you’re selling to individuals in our state you have to comply with all of the Affordable Care Act pre-existing condition protections,” Corlette says.

So far, Virginia has taken no action. But this January, members of the General Assembly are set to consider a range of options. 

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.