Trump's short-term health plans insufficient for cancer patients, advocate group says

Cancer patients with short-term health plans will likely face high out-of-pocket costs and coverage denials, the American Cancer Society said in a May 13 report.

The Trump administration expanded access to short-term health plans in 2018. While the plans have lower premiums, they are often referred to as "skimpy" health plans because they don't have to comply with many of the ACA's coverage requirements. This means they can deny coverage based on preexisting conditions, can charge higher premiums based on health status, and can impose lifetime and annual limits on coverage.

The American Cancer Society examined what would happen if a person diagnosed with cancer enrolled in a short-term health plan. They created a hypothetical profile of a 57-year-old woman who developed breast cancer once she was enrolled in a short-term health plan.

The society determined the total cost of treating breast cancer in the woman's first year would be over $179,000. For a three-month plan, a patient could face more than $111,000 in out-of-pocket costs plus $364 in premiums. For a plan lasting 12 months, the woman would face more than $40,000 in out-of-pocket costs and $31,185 in monthly premiums.

While the society said the plans are intended for certain customers looking to fill coverage gaps, it noted most consumers don't generally understand the coverage limits of short-term plans.

"Policymakers should consider prohibiting the sale, or at the very least limiting the availability of short-term plans because of the inadequacy of their coverage, combined with the negative impact on the risk pool and availability of coverage in the ACA-compliant market," the American Cancer Society said.

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