WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today the U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote on a legislative package containing provisions aimed at improving access to affordable health care, including for those with serious pre-existing conditions like cancer.
Specifically, the reforms included in Title I and Title II would expand access to tax credits, improving affordability for many middle-class families, increase Medicaid funding to encourage states to expand coverage, and improve consumer outreach and enrollment efforts. The package would also rescind the rule that extends the availability of short-term, limited duration insurance plans (STLD). These plans can deny or charge people more for coverage based on their health status, are exempt from covering essential health services, and can charge older people more than they charge a younger person for the same coverage. They can also establish coverage limits.
A Congressional report released last week showed STLD plans often deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, reject claims for services a patient would reasonably consider coverable, set unreasonably low limits on covered benefits and intentionally use misleading marketing tactics. The report’s findings mirror similar results from an ACS CAN report issued last year that showed STLD plans can cost cancer patients up to five times as much in out-of-pocket costs as a comprehensive plan.
A statement from Lisa Lacasse, president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) follows:
“Today the House can take decisive action to strengthen the nation’s health care system and provide greater access to life-saving coverage for millions of Americans, including cancer patients, survivors and all those at risk for the disease.
“Rarely has there been a time when the need for comprehensive health coverage has been more critical than during the coronavirus pandemic. Access to meaningful care is essential to improving public health. Provisions in this legislation would help make health care more affordable by expanding tax credits to additional middle class families currently struggling to afford premiums. It would provide health coverage to millions of low-income and recently unemployed Americans by encouraging states to expand Medicaid through improved federal funding. And it would bolster outreach and enrollment efforts, critical strategies to increase access to health care coverage for those who need it.
“Additionally, rescinding the short-term limited duration (STLD) rule would protect patients—especially those with pre-existing conditions like cancer—from purchasing inadequate coverage that is likely to deny them care for the very services they need and leave them with unsurmountable medical bills should they get sick. These kinds of barebones plans have proven disastrous for patients and only serve to weaken the insurance market by splitting it between the young and healthy—who are attracted to these plans—and those who have no choice but to pay more for comprehensive coverage.
“This legislative package offers a chance to strengthen our health care system at a critical moment and build toward a future where everyone can access and afford comprehensive health care coverage.”