‘Caveat emptor’ is the key when shopping for health insurance after Trump’s sabotage

[ Originally published on this site as post ]

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Open enrollment for Obamacare (in the 34 states using the government Healthcare.gov exchanges) ends on Dec. 15. In the next few weeks potential customers are going to be under increased pressure to make decisions—and they could end up with a plan they didn’t bargain for, largely thanks to popular vote loser Donald Trump’s sabotage of the law. He made it easier for snake oil salesmen to offer plans that aren’t what they’re advertised as.

[E]xperts and regulators warn consumers to be cautious—and are raising red flags about one set of limited benefit plans marketed to individuals for as little as $93 a month. Offered through brokers and online ads, the plans promise to be an “ACA compliant, affordable, integrated solution that help … individuals avoid the penalties under [the health law].”

Such skinny plans—sold for the first time to individuals—come amid uncertainty over the fate of the ACA and whether President Donald Trump’s administration will ease rules on plans for individuals. Dozens of brokers are offering the plans.

“The Trump administration is injecting a significant amount of confusion into the implementation of the ACA,” said Kevin Lucia, project director at Georgetown University’s Health Policy Institute. “So it doesn’t surprise me that we would have arrangements popping up that might be trying to take advantage of that confusion.”

Part of the confusion is what exactly meets the ACA’s requirements to qualify as a health plan, since Trump’s October executive order loosened insurance restrictions on some lower-cost plans. It hasn’t followed up with direction on what would be necessary for a qualified plan, so there’s this gray area. The requirements under the ACA are specific to ensuring that customers know what they’re getting and are getting what they pay for. Some companies, like Apex Management Group in the Chicago area and Pennsylvania-based Xpress Healthcare, are apparently exploiting the gray area that Trump has created here.

These plans offer “little or no coverage for hospital, emergency room care and expensive prescription drugs, such as chemotherapy.”