Short-term Health Plans Could Last Longer in Wisconsin under Bill

Short-term health plans, which are typically cheaper than regular insurance because they don’t have to meet many requirements of the Affordable Care Act, could last up to three years in Wisconsin instead of 18 months under a bill to be debated Wednesday.

The measure would align the state with federal regulations approved in 2018 by former President Donald Trump’s administration and provide more flexibility to people needing transitional health coverage, said sponsor Sen. Dale Kooyenga, R-Brookfield.

“There are individuals who find themselves between jobs or starting a business,” Kooyenga said. “For many of them, it’s Cadillac insurance versus no insurance. This offers a good compromise between those extremes.”

Critics say short-term plans can leave people unexpectedly facing large medical bills if they don’t realize the plans don’t have to cover “essential benefits” such as maternity care, mental health and prescription drugs. The plans also aren’t required to cover pre-existing conditions.

Short-term health plans can initially last up to a year, compared to three months during former President Barack Obama’s administration. Under the Trump rule, they can be extended for another 24 months, for a total of three years, if the insurer and consumer agree. In Wisconsin, the total period allowed is 18 months.

About a dozen companies sell short-term health plans in the state, said Sarah Smith, a spokesperson for the Office of the Commissioner of Insurance.

Smith said no data was available on how many residents are enrolled in the plans, but a U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Health report last year said Wisconsin was in the top 10 states in enrollment with about 100,000 people covered.