The Latest: Short-term health plans cheaper but cover less

WASHINGTON — The Latest on Trump administration's short-term health insurance plans (all times local):

11:30 a.m.

The Trump administration's new regulation expanding short-term health insurance plans contains what amounts to a legal life preserver in case a key feature is struck down by a court.

Up to now, short-term health insurance has been a niche product, covering people for several months or less than a year.

The Trump administration now says that short-term plans can last up to 12 months and be renewed for up to 36 months. Making the plans renewable is a novel twist. And it could draw a court challenge.

A "severability clause" in the rule spells out that if the 36-month provision is invalidated, the rest of the regulation would still stand. That would allow insurers to keep marketing the plans, instead of throwing the entire regulation into doubt.

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer of New York is vowing to do everything in his power to block the administration.

Short-plans cost about one-third as much as comprehensive coverage but don't have to cover pre-existing medical conditions.

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10:30 a.m.

A major insurer group is warning that the Trump administration's short-term health insurance plans could be harmful for consumers.

The group is the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, whose member plans are a mainstay of Affordable Care Act coverage.

A senior vice president, Justine Handelman said health insurance should be available and affordable for everyone, "regardless of their health status."

She said consumers could be harmed by slimmed-down policies that don't provide comprehensive coverage. That could make comprehensive coverage more expensive and leave some consumers "unaware of the risks of these policies," she added.

Earlier Wednesday, the Trump administration said it's clearing the way for health insurers to sell short-term plans as a low-cost alternative to pricey Obama-law policies for people struggling with high premiums. But the policies for individuals have no guarantees of coverage for existing medical conditions and come with limited benefits.

Federal health officials say the plans can last for up to 12 months and may be renewed for up to 36 months

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9:05 a.m.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York says Democrats will "do everything in our power" to stop the Trump administration's expansion of short-term health insurance plans.

It's unclear how that might happen, since versions of such plans have long been available — including during the Obama administration.

"These new short-term plans are nothing short of junk insurance and are so dangerous for Americans that it's no wonder not a single group representing patients, physicians, nurses or hospitals has voiced support," Schumer said in a statement.

Proponents of short-term plans say they provide a fallback option for healthy people who make too much money to get subsidized coverage under Obama's health law.

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7 a.m.

The Trump administration says it's clearing the way for health insurers to sell short-term plans as a low-cost alternative to pricey Obama-law policies for people struggling with high premiums.

But the policies for individuals have no guarantees of coverage for existing medical conditions and come with limited benefits.

Federal health officials say the plans can last for up to 12 months and may be renewed for up to 36 months. Details are expected Wednesday.

Short-term plans have been a niche product for people in life transitions, people switching jobs, people retiring before Medicare eligibility or people aging out of parental coverage.

Officials hope the plans will appeal to people ineligible for income-based subsidies under the Affordable Care Act. Critics say the plans undermine the health law.

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