The COVID-19 outbreak has hit many Oklahoma families in different ways, from hospitalization to isolation to abrupt job loss. Nearly 69,000 Oklahomans filed initial claims for unemployment compensation last week, breaking all previous state records. As the state response to the virus continues and more businesses are forced to shut down due to government mandates or revenue loss, that number can be expected to rise.
For those Oklahomans who are among the thousands that have recently lost their job and are looking to keep health insurance coverage, they may consider short-term limited-duration insurance plans, also called short-term plans. (According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 46 percent of Oklahomans received their health insurance from their employer as of 2018.)
Although some employees who have been laid off may be eligible to keep their employer-sponsored plan under federal COBRA continuation coverage, they often are required to bear the full costs of their plans, which can cost families thousands of dollars each month.
Instead, consumers can often take advantage of short-term plans for much less while they look for other work. This is because the Trump Administration and Oklahoma's political leaders rolled back previous federal and state restrictions regarding the duration of short-term plans back in 2018 and 2019 respectively. Previously, the Obama administration ruled insurance companies’ short-term plans were limited to only three months of coverage.
Insurance companies in Oklahoma may sell short-term plans that include up to 12 months of coverage with the option to extend coverage up to 36 months.
Brian Blase, a former health care policy advisor to President Trump, recently noted the increased utilization of short-term plans in response to the coronavirus: “One company that offers short-term plans, Pivot Health, saw a 165% increase in enrollment between February and March of this year. According to its survey, nearly 90% of new members were previously uninsured. Almost all short-term plans provide protection for coronavirus, covering both the cost of testing and treatment. This includes the cost of a virtual provider visit.”
Short-term health insurance plans offer more alternative options to individuals who may not be able to afford any costly plans on the Obamacare exchange with or without the subsidies. These short-term plans’ premiums may cost 70 to 80 percent less than many Obamacare plans.
Blase gives another reason why short-term plans may be a more appealing option than a subsidized Obamacare plan on the exchange (also called an ACA plan). “In legislation enacted last week,” he writes, “Congress made unemployment benefits extremely high (roughly $1,000 a week for four months), and this will disqualify many people from large subsidies. Therefore, short-term plans are probably more attractive to many who lose their jobs, even though they have the option of enrolling in an ACA plan.”
These extended gap insurance options are only available to families now due to previous efforts spearheaded by the Trump Administration. These options can immediately and markedly improve real people’s lives by offering families more choices they need.