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Short-Term Health Insurance Plans Destroy Insurance Pools

This is a fact that would have been worth mentioning in a NYT piece on how health care may be affected by last Tuesday’s elections. Near the end, the article referred to the Trump administration’s promotion of short-term insurance policies but only said that they, “do not have to cover pre-existing conditions or provide all the benefits required by the health law.”

The important feature of these short-term plans from the standpoint of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is that they are designed to be appealing to relatively healthy people. By excluding people who are likely to suffer from costly health conditions, they can offer insurance at a lower price. This has the effect of pulling healthier people out of the ACA insurance pools.

This means that the people remaining in the ACA pools will be less healthy on average and therefore have higher costs. That will drive up the price of insurance in the ACA pools, likely pushing more relatively healthy people to buy short-term insurance plans. The end result in this story is that the ACA pools end up being extremely expensive, which makes the prohibition on discrimination over pre-existing conditions pointless.

This is the importance of the short-term insurance policies. It should have been mentioned in the piece.

This article originally appeared on Dean Baker’s Beat the Press blog.

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Dean Baker is the senior economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, DC. 

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