New Federal Attacks on Our Health Care: Substandard AHP Coverage Rule and New Attempt to Repeal the ACA

Fresh federal attacks on our health care were announced today with the Department of Labor’s final rule to expand Association Health Plans, and a renewed congressional attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Both actions seek to destabilize our health care marketplace and will lead to increases in premiums for health consumers and the erosion of patient protections such as ensuring that people with pre-existing conditions are able to access care. California has taken many steps to shield consumers in our state from the brunt of these attacks, including legislation to prevent the sale of “junk” insurance to be heard in policy committees this week and next.

The final rule released today by the Department of Labor clears the way for the expansion of so-called “Association Health Plans” or “AHPs” which are plans that can skirt the patient protections of the ACA and siphon off young, healthy people therefore undermining the rest of the health insurance marketplace. Many people will not know these plans don’t cover key essential benefits, and therefore end up with very narrow coverage that will not cover many basic health care needs. These sub-standard AHPs are designed to disadvantage people with preexisting conditions, undoing the protections overwhelmingly supported by the American people. President Trump promised to deliver ‘tremendous’ health care for Americans, but all he’s delivered are tremendously bad coverage options for health care consumers. California can and should still regulate these plans to ensure our consumer protections remain intact

The California State Assembly Health Committee will hear SB 1375 (Hernandez) next week that would regulate who can participate in these AHPs and require them to comply with ACA consumer protections. Today, the Assembly Health Committee passed a related bill, SB 910 (Hernandez) to ban substandard so-called “short-term” insurance which would blunt another proposed expansion of substandard insurance by the Trump Administration. In response to these federal assaults on our health care, Health Access is urging the State Legislature to continue to fight for our health to hold patients harmless and to prevent premium increases. We urge passage of pending legislation to limit junk insurance in California–so people don’t get left with coverage that doesn’t cover what they need, and to prevent a destabilized insurance market and increased premiums overall

Also released today is a proposal by outside groups on a new plan to repeal the ACA. The group is spearheaded by former Senator Rick Santorum.  If Congress decides that it wants to take up the issue of ACA repeal again, the first step would be to pass a budget bill that provides Congress with the authority to pass a repeal bill on a party-line vote. The House Budget Committee is scheduled to begin this process this week.

This new effort to repeal the ACA is like a bad horror movie sequel, just with worse quality. The proposal would have the same severe effects as last year’s repeal bills – millions more without care, spiraling health care costs, and the destabilizing of our health care system along with Americans’ health and financial security. Congress continues to try to rollback our care and consumer protections, so Americans need to continue to stand up and fight for our care.

Health Access has a number of detailed fact sheets on the various federal proposals from 2017 on ACA repeal, and the impact to California, available here: