From Governor Tony Evers pushing for Medicaid expansion that would only serve to force those with private insurance onto the government dole to the misguided push for “Medicare for All” at the federal level, liberals appear to be laser-focused on increasing government dependency in the realm of healthcare. And while the continued existence of the Affordable Care Act makes significant reforms towards healthcare freedom more challenging, conservatives have been fighting hard for reforms that lower healthcare costs and increase access to care.
But one of the most promising reforms, Short Term Limited Duration Plans (STLDs) has come under assault from Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin. In a press release this week, Baldwin signed on to support for the Senate version of a bill that recently passed the US House overturning the Trump administration’s rules increasing the length of time for which people could utilize STLDs.
STLDs are coverage options for people that don’t wish to pay the onerous price for mandate-laden plans offered on the Obamacare exchanges. While it is certainly true that these plans do not offer the sort of comprehensive coverage that can be offered by the most expensive plans, they can offer a dramatically lower cost option for individuals who may not be able to afford such largesse. While liberals like Baldwin deride these plans as “junk plans” that is simply not the case. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal found that STLD plans can offer lower deductibles and out-of-pocket caps than Obamacare “Bronze” plans while still offering consumers a lower monthly premium. Others have estimated that these plans can be as much as 90 percent cheaper than traditional health insurance.
The Trump Administration saw that these plans could offer an end-around Obamacare to give people struggling with skyrocketing insurance costs. The time-frame for using STLDs was expanded from three months to three years. Among the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty’s healthcare solutions for Wisconsin is a proposal to match federal policy and allow customers to purchase these plans for three years. Current Wisconsin law limits them to one year.
Liberals like Baldwin see these plans as undermining the Obamacare exchange, which forces young, healthy people to pay for the healthcare of less healthy individuals. The Baldwin plan would restore the three month limit.
While forcing people on to plans they don’t want is bad enough, it is far from the most insidious aspect of Baldwin’s proposal. The enrollment period for Obamacare is very short. For 2019 coverage, it ran from November 1 to December 15 of last year. Individuals who miss the enrollment deadline are generally left without insurance coverage until the next enrollment period.
STLDs can offer a bridge for such individuals, but under Baldwin’s plan they could do so for only three months. If an individual gets sick during that time, they will be unable to get another STLD. In other words, the Baldwin plan creates serious danger for individuals who develop pre-existing conditions.
It is time for policymakers at all levels of government to work to infuse more freedom into the healthcare system, not less. Baldwin’s plan not only limits the freedom for individuals to choose for themselves what insurance plan works best, but would also endanger the nation’s most vulnerable individuals—those with low incomes who don’t have insurance coverage through their employer. Conservatives ought to call Baldwin out on this, as it appears the end goal is more government dependency than healthier citizens.