President Biden has proposed requiring insurers (1) to cancel short‐term health insurance plans after four months and (2) to refuse to re‐enroll those patients. I’ve written previously about how these changes would increase the number of uninsured U.S. residents by 500,000.
The Biden administration believes those changes are necessary to force people into ObamaCare plans. They may be right. The non‐partisan U.S. Congressional Budget Office reports that for many consumers, short‐term plans offer a better deal than ObamaCare. Short‐term plans often “have lower deductibles or wider provider networks,” the agency writes, at premiums “as much as 60 percent lower than premiums for the lowest‐cost [ObamaCare] plan.”
But not everyone who loses access to short‐term plans can just enroll in an ObamaCare plan. Congress generally prohibits those folks from enrolling until the following January. So Biden’s proposal would throw short‐term plan enrollees, many of whom will have expensive illnesses, out of their plans and leave them with no coverage for up to 12 months.
Even then, ObamaCare will still be unaffordable for many people. I know one such individual personally. Let’s call her “Maria.”
Maria is an immigrant and postulant. That is, she is entering a monastery this year to study to become a nun. When she enters, her annual income will fall below the federal poverty line of $14,580. That’s plenty low to qualify for Medicaid but Maria’s immigration status makes her ineligible.
An ObamaCare plan would cost Maria at least 33 percent of her annual income, i.e., four times the 8.5 percent threshold that ObamaCare considers “affordable.” Why? She would have to pay the full $4,821 premium herself because (ironically) her income will be too low to receive a subsidy.
Fortunately, under current rules, there’s a more affordable option. Maria could purchase a series of one‐year short‐term plans. She would have many options, with premiums ranging from $1,100–$5,300 per year and deductibles ranging from $1,000–$10,000.
Crucially, a short‐term plan would not require Maria to violate her religious beliefs. ObamaCare is so much more expensive in part because it would require her to purchase coverage for contraceptives and maternity care. One of those things violates her religious beliefs; neither of them she needs. Short‐term plans leave Maria free to follow her conscience by declining to pay for contraceptives.
President Biden is a self‐described pro‐immigrant Catholic. His proposal would nevertheless require this immigrant and aspiring Catholic nun to pay contraceptives‐coverage‐laden premiums that are four times higher that what Biden himself considers affordable.
Despite its title, the “Affordable Care Act” made health insurance less affordable for millions. Short‐term plans can help. Biden should rescind his proposal to limit them.