HomeHealth Care NewsDemocrats Set to Attack “No-Frills” and “Portable” Health Insurance

Democrats Set to Attack “No-Frills” and “Portable” Health Insurance

A Democratic polling service released the results of a survey that could give party politicians ammunition to ditch two health insurance reforms implemented by the Trump administration.

The poll by Keep US Covered was conducted in key battleground states and questioned “Core Biden Coalition voters” on two currently available health care options: short-term, limited-duration insurance (STLDI) and individual coverage health reimbursement arrangements (ICHRAs).

A news release about the poll called the options “controversial” and said getting rid of them “presents a low-hanging electoral opportunity for Democrats to energize their base.”

Expanded Options

STLDI is designed for healthy people who rarely make claims but want low-cost protection in case of a catastrophic event. The Trump administration removed federal obstacles so states could expand their insurance markets to include the plans. Democrat politicians have derided STLDI as “junk insurance” because the plans are not required to cover all the expensive bells and whistles of Obamacare plans.

The Trump administration also promoted ICHRAs, an alternative to employer health insurance. Instead of buying insurance for workers, the employer gives employees tax-advantaged money to buy their own insurance. This way, the insurance is “portable” because coverage continues after an employee leaves the job.

Without a portable plan, an unemployed person who is sick and can’t find immediate employment may have no alternative but to go on Medicaid or buy an Obamacare plan with high deductibles and limited networks.

Crafty Wording

The study published at KeepUSCovered.org said respondents were unfamiliar with both health care options, but when they learned more, 71 percent opposed ICHRA and 68 percent supported overturning STLDI.

The organization claims scrapping the insurance reforms would be a strong political plus for Democrats.

“[Seventy-one percent] said that the president taking action on these regulations would make them even more motivated to vote heading into the 2022 midterm elections,” Keep US Covered stated.

One reason respondents may have been opposed to the plans is the way the questions were phrased by the Democrat pollsters, says John Goodman, president of The Goodman Institute for Public Policy Research and co-publisher of Health Care News.

For example, pollsters described ICHRAs as discriminatory and a “flimsier alternative.”

“Voters are always going to side with Democrats if they get to frame the issues and there is no Republican rebuttal,” Goodman said.

Republicans have to do a better job of discussing health care than they did last year, Goodman says.

“Republicans can win on these issues if they do what Donald Trump didn’t do,” Goodman said. “They need to forcefully defend personal and portable insurance that travels with you from job to job and in and out of the labor market, [and] insurance that meets your financial and medical needs, instead of outrageously high deductibles and narrow networks that deny you access to the best doctors and the best hospitals.”

‘Personal Option’

There are many ways Republicans can describe STLDI and IHRAs that make would appeal to voters, says Dean Clancy, a senior health policy fellow at Americans for Prosperity (AFP).

“Our polling shows the American people do not want an overhaul of the health care system, including a ‘public option’ or ‘Medicare for All’ scheme that would lead to a single-payer, government-run system,” Clancy said. “People want a ‘personal option’: reasonable, moderate reforms that fix what isn’t working and give you, the patient, the choice and control you want with the quality you deserve at a price you can afford from the medical professionals you trust.”

Clancy says AFP’s research finds overwhelming support for short-term plans.

“In April, 85 percent of respondents, including 80 percent of women and 82 percent of Democrats, told us they would support a health care reform plan that expands the number of short-term plans,” Clancy said.

“Short-term, renewable plans offer good, portable coverage that’s 50 to 80 percent less expensive on average than a traditional plan—a Toyota Camry for people who don’t need and can’t afford a Maserati,” Clancy said. “They’re ideal for people who don’t want to pay for coverage they know they’ll never use, and a lifesaver for people who would otherwise fall between the cracks and find themselves uninsured.”

Three million Americans are enrolled in short-term plans, and 10 percent of Americans are uninsured, Clancy says.

Cost Consciousness

There is some common ground in the findings of the Keep US Covered poll and AFP’s research: people want lower-cost health coverage. That is one reason short-term plans scored so highly among Democrats AFP polled, Clancy says.

“Since the [Affordable Care Act] was enacted, health insurance premiums and deductibles have more than doubled,” Clancy said. “A family of four with federally subsidized insurance premiums has to spend $25,000 before getting any benefits from their health plan.

“Short-term plans typically allow you to see any doctor or hospital you want, whereas most Obamacare plans try to save money by restricting their enrollees’ access to the best local doctors and hospitals,” Clancy said. “Which approach sounds more like junk?”

Clancy said the Democrat poll sends a not-so-subtle message: “We don’t trust you to make good health care choices for yourself and your loved ones,” and “government knows best.”

AnneMarie Schieber (amschieber@heartland.org) is the managing editor of Health Care News.


This article was updated on August 12, 2021.

AnneMarie Schieber
AnneMarie Schieber
AnneMarie Schieber is a research fellow at The Heartland Institute and managing editor of Health Care News, Heartland's monthly newspaper for health care reform.


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