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Letter to the editor: Lower-cost health coverage options may not be all they seem

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I am responding to the article (in the Oct. 5 issue and online Oct. 8) “Less-expensive health coverage stalled in Pa". The headline seems like it came from the insurance industry executives who are disappointed that they are being “stalled” in selling short-term insurance plans.

These plans generally can cover whatever they want to cover. The majority have not covered pre-existing conditions, which can be anything from migraines to mental health issues, drug addiction, back pain and cancer.

Premiums may be lower than what is available on the Affordable Care Act Marketplace Exchange for people who are higher income, but they do not have the vital health care protections available under the ACA. It is highly unlikely that mental health therapies and drug and alcohol abuse treatment would be covered because the short-term plans are not required to offer parity between behavioral health and physical health coverage.

The Pennsylvania Department of Insurance has revoked eight insurance agent licenses in two years for deceptive advertising practices. With more efforts to sell short-term insurance, people are likely to see an increase in such practices. Advertising that short-term plans are cheaper, without statements about what they truly cover would cause problems for consumers who think they are purchasing true health insurance. 

I personally would never buy one of these plans. I am knowledgeable about the importance of health insurance and about people taking the risk of not being covered. Anyone of any age can suddenly develop a health condition or suffer injuries that will cost tens of thousands of dollars, or more.

Short-term plans are much less likely to cover expensive needs than are quality health plans. With the advent of the ACA, medical bankruptcies went down because people got the types of health insurance they needed. If people avail themselves of short-term plans that are short on coverage, medical bankruptcy rates will increase. This means that people can lose homes and all other assets, incurring long-term debt due to high medical costs.

Will insurance companies and brokers be deprived of an opportunity to earn income from short- term plans in PA? It looks like it.

Will consumers who buy health insurance be better protected by the ACA’s quality health plans? Yes.

Lynn Keltz
Executive Director
Pennsylvania Mental Health Consumers’ Association
Swatara Township, Dauphin County

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