Trump Plan Will Increase Washington State Health Care Costs in 2019

Last month, Washington State reported that 11 insurers filed 74 health plans for the 2019 state Washington Health Benefit Exchange market. The good news: no counties will be without issuer coverage. The bad news: health insurers proposed a 19 percent increase in insurance premium costs.

The rising cost of health care leaves working individuals and families skipping medical care to maintain basic needs like shelter, food, childcare and transportation. President Donald Trump’s executive order to expand short-term duration insurance may seem like it saves money, but in reality exacerbates existing problems and costs more long-term.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has published new rules widening access to short-term insurance, which was originally limited to 90 days and intended to fill small gaps in health coverage. These plans were heavily regulated under President Barack Obama, as they are inferior, falling short of basic minimum coverage protections and deter young, healthy individuals from purchasing through the market place.

Trump’s expansion of short duration plans to 364 days entices people to opt in because of its low cost. But they are actually putting themselves in grave financial peril. If anything goes wrong, the plan likely won’t cover it. While ACA plans prohibiting denial of insurance based on pre-existing conditions, short-term coverage allows it. So if you find out you have cancer, it’s probably not covered. Short-term plans also lack coverage of prescription drugs, mental health, substance abuse, preventative care and maternal care. When you need health care, your insurance won’t be there for you, and you’ll have to pay out of pocket. These skimpy plans set up individuals for financial ruin.

Costs also rise for everyone else. In the United States, unlike other developed countries, health care is a for-profit enterprise. When there are fewer healthy people in the system, everyone else becomes more expensive for insurance companies to cover. To protect their profits, they raise rates. In short, it’s a bad deal for everyone.

As a young person, it can be hard to image your own mortality. But no one is immune from falling ill or having a child diagnosed with a chronic condition. The current administration is marketing the alternative plan as another option but in reality, it’s a poverty trap for individuals and working families.

Currently, about 268,400 individuals purchase their insurance through the individual marketplace in Washington State. With elimination of the individual mandate in 2019, people who don’t think they need good coverage will leave and costs are projected to increase substantially for those who stay.

The Office of the Insurance Commissioner will review proposed plans for various coverage areas this summer. Once the review is complete, the Washington Health Benefit Exchange Board will certify plans for sale on Washington Healthplanfinder beginning September 13. Individuals may enroll for individual 2019 market plans on November 1.

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