Short-Term Limited Duration Plans

September 14, 2020

Insurers, doctors and patient groups filed a lawsuit against the administration to invalidate a new rule issued by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that could disrupt the health insurance market by extending for up to three years "short-term" policies that lack Affordable Care Act-guaranteed benefits.  The rule took effect in early October of 2018, and significantly extends the amount of time permitted for short-term limited duration (STLD) plans.  ACS CAN has strong concerns that these plans will destabilize the insurance market by attracting younger and healthier people to these lower cost, barebones plans while forcing those who need comprehensive coverage to pay more in premiums or be unable to obtain insurance entirely.

The plaintiff groups originally requested a preliminary injunction (PI) to keep the rule from taking effect, arguing that the STLD rule violates the executive branch’s duty to implement the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in accordance with Congressional intent when it passed the law.  The ACA requires insurers to provide coverage at set rates regardless of health history, gender or age. Those protections aren't offered by STLD or “skinny” plans, which under the previous administration lasted a maximum of three months but could now be extended to 36 if the rule remains effect.  A PI would have prevented agents from marketing the plans during open enrollment, which began November 1.

ACS and ACS CAN, in partnership with a number of other patient groups, filed an amicus brief in support of the PI.  Our brief provided the court with information and scientific evidence on the importance of access to comprehensive, affordable insurance for prevention and treatment of illnesses such as cancer.  Read the press release.

Based on oral arguments, plaintiffs decided to withdraw their PI motion.  Our groups filed an updated amicus curiae brief on the merits in March of 2019.

Unfortunately, in July the District Court found on behalf of the government, upholding the rule.  ACS CAN and its partners issued a statement

The case is on appeal to the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, where ACS CAN and partner groups have filed an updated amicus brief.

A divided three-judge panel ruled for the administration again.  Plaintiff groups are seeking en banc review of that decision, meaning they are asking for the full DC Circuit to hear the case.  ACS CAN filed an amicus brief in support of that review, and issued a partner statement as well.