President Trump and Vice-President Pence were asked at both Wednesday and Thursday’s news conferences about their plan to protect the uninsured from financial ruin as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Galen Senior Fellow Brian Blase describes in a Forbes column today, How The Uninsured Can Gain Financial Protection From The Virus, three immediate options: 1) short-term plans, 2) enrolling in existing government programs, and 3) using funding in the bill Congress passed last week to compensate providers and hospitals for providing care to uninsured COVID-19 patients.
Vice President Pence previewed the third option yesterday. Brian explains:
“Last week, Congress appropriated more than $100 billion to compensate providers and hospitals for the cost of providing care during the epidemic. Part of this funding could support coronavirus care for the uninsured in exchange for providers and hospitals limiting what they charge patients for treatment. This would reasonably assure that patients get the care they need and be financially protected.”
The vice president said the president would be announcing details later today.
But there are other plans available for immediate access to health insurance that Brian describes and which the White House could highlight, starting with short-term plans. When he served in the White House as President Trump’s health policy advisor at the National Economic Council from 2017-2019, Brian was responsible for shepherding these rules through the bureaucracy—plans that have been wrongly pilloried as “junk” plans by the Left.
“Almost all short-term plans provide protection for coronavirus, covering both the cost of testing and treatment. This includes the cost of a virtual provider visit. One company that offers short-term plans, Pivot Health, saw a 165% increase in enrollment between February and March of this year. According to its survey, nearly 90% of new members were previously uninsured. To keep them affordable, short-term plans are underwritten, meaning that people would generally need to obtain coverage in advance of requiring care,” Brian writes.
“The President can largely take credit for the availability of this coverage. In 2018, his administration reversed restrictions placed on these plans late in 2016, restoring the contract period to 364 days and even permitting renewals for up to 3 years.
“According to an analysis by Chris Pope of the Manhattan Institute, short-term plans often provide better value than ACA plans. For equivalent insurance protection, short-term plan premiums are much lower—in some cases about half the cost. Moreover, short-term plans generally cover far more providers. States that have limited short-term plans should consider adopting the federal rules, so their residents have more coverage options.”
In addition, some are calling for the administration to create a special coronavirus enrollment period in ACA exchanges, but Brian explains that’s unnecessary. The law already allows it:
“People who lose their workplace coverage are eligible for a special enrollment period for ACA plans. Because of their high cost, these plans have proved to be attractive mostly to people who qualify for large subsidies,” he writes.
“In legislation enacted last week, Congress made unemployment benefits extremely high (roughly $1,000 a week for four months), and this will disqualify many people from large subsidies.
“Therefore, short-term plans are probably more attractive to many who lose their jobs, even though they have the option of enrolling in an ACA plan. Medicaid, where eligibility is determined on a monthly basis and the unemployment insurance increase is not considered income for the purpose of eligibility, may also be able to fill a short-term gap for people who lose their job and associated coverage.”
In a crisis like this, Americans need every choice possible. No new legislation or taxpayer spending is needed to provide immediate protection.
Here is Brian’s full article on Forbes.