Durbin Calls on Trump Administration to Stop Sabotaging Health Care for Americans by Pushing Junk Insurance Plans

CHICAGO – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today called on President Trump’s Administration to halt the expansion of junk insurance plans that would once again allow health insurance companies to refuse coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, raise premiums significantly for older Americans, and exclude basic benefits such as maternity care or prescription drugs. The Trump Administration has proposed a new rule to expand so-called “short-term” insurance plans to bypass the consumer protections created by the Affordable Care Act (ACA).


“After repeatedly trying and failing to repeal the Affordable Care Act, President Trump’s White House is now actively trying to promote junk insurance plans that exclude basic benefits including hospitalization, prescription drugs, mental health services, substance abuse treatment, and maternity care,” Durbin said. “These plans are a return to the days when insurers would comb through your medical history in an effort to deny you coverage or refuse to cover care you might need. I urge the Trump Administration not to finalize the proposed rule and instead work to ensure that all American families have choices when it comes to affordable, quality health care coverage.”


Taken together with repeal of the individual mandate, allowing junk plans to proliferate could result in health insurance premiums on the individual market increasing by nearly 20 percent in 2019 and approximately 100,000 people in Illinois losing comprehensive insurance.  The proposed regulation is also opposed by leading medical societies and patient organizations, including the American Hospital Association, the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, and the March of Dimes. Last month, Senator Durbin and 46 other Democratic Senators sent a letter of opposition to the proposed Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) rule to the Secretaries of the Departments of Health and Human Services, Treasury, and Labor.


Under CMS’ proposed rule, health insurers would be allowed to sell year-long plans that:


  • Refuse coverage to people with pre-existing conditions;
  • Deny coverage of essential health benefits such as maternity care, mental health and substance abuse treatment, hospitalizations, prescription drugs;
  • Charge older or sicker people significantly higher premiums; and
  • Can include annual or lifetime caps on benefits.


Under current law, individuals can obtain short-term health insurance plans for up to three months. These plans do not have to comply with ACA insurance requirements because they are meant to be used on a very temporary basis, like when someone is transitioning between jobs. However, CMS has proposed a rule that would extend the duration of these plans up to 12 months, and possibly longer. If finalized, the rule would likely result in younger and healthier Americans abandoning the ACA plans in favor of cheaper, skimpier “junk plans.” As a result, only older and sicker Americans— who need comprehensive coverage—would be left in ACA plans, leading to higher premium costs.