Keep US Covered Launches to Protect and Improve the Quality of Health Care for Working Americans

Keep US Covered press release posted on February 25, 2021 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today a new campaign, Keep US Covered, launched in an effort to strengthen health coverage and protect access to quality care for working Americans. Our mission is to promote public policy changes that preserve equity in workplace health benefits and restore basic standards to make sure insurance products meet people’s coverage needs. We also seek to refocus the health care conversation, so it takes into account the many non-clinical factors that lead to health disparities.

 

Specifically, the campaign will urge the new Biden Administration to reverse Trump-era regulations that boost harmful and potentially discriminatory Individual Coverage Health Reimbursement Arrangements (ICHRAs) and end rules that expand short-term limited duration insurance (STLDI) that leaves people underinsured and facing huge medical bills. These policies hurt working Americans and threaten the stability of individual insurance markets. President Biden has already taken steps to address these regulations, signing an Executive Order on January 28th, and Keep US Covered will support efforts to fully rescind them. By fighting for the reversal of these rules and fostering a focus on the societal challenges impacting health, Keep US Covered seeks to build a stronger, fairer health care system for all people.

 

The campaign will be led by Executive Director Sonja Nesbit, a veteran of health policy debates. “Working Americans deserve quality health coverage they can rely on,” said Nesbit. “Recent rules changes have undermined the basic promise of health coverage and invited discrimination in the workplace. These policies also threaten the progress made through the Affordable Care Act. We have a great opportunity to build momentum to reverse flawed rules as well as promote a better understanding of the societal challenges that impact health.”

 

Keep US Covered will seek to educate and build consensus on ICHRAs, STLDI, and social determinants of health among policymakers and organizations who share the values of equity, fairness, and support for working people. To learn more about Keep US Covered, visit KeepUSCovered.org or follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

 

BACKGROUND

 

In recent years, Washington has weakened rules for health coverage, including through two particularly damaging regulations. One allowed for a large expansion of so-called Individual Coverage Health Reimbursement Arrangements and one loosened restrictions on Short-Term, Limited Duration Insurance, often referred to as junk insurance.

 

These rules are already facing scrutiny from the new Biden administration. In one of his first actions in office, President Joe Biden issued Executive Order 14009, which directs relevant federal agencies to review these Trump-era policies and consider “suspending, revising, or rescinding” them. No timeline for this process has been announced but Keep US Covered is urging the administration to act swiftly to rescind them.

 

ICHRAs create a system of haves and have nots where instead of receiving comprehensive coverage directly from their employer, some employees are forced to find coverage on their own on the individual market and are given a voucher by their employer. The rule allows workers to be divided into different “classes,” with some receiving traditional job-based insurance while others are placed in the ICHRA system. Not only would these workers be on their own to find – likely less robust – coverage, but experts have warned the system opens the door to discrimination in health benefits. And by allowing a system in which employees who are more expensive to cover can be dumped into the Affordable Care Act individual market, this could threaten the stability of the exchanges and increase costs for every American who currently buys coverage there.  

 

STLDI is meant to fill temporary gaps in an individual’s coverage, such as when they are in between jobs. But the Trump-era policy expanded the definition of “short-term” to up to three years. Many Americans purchase these plans because of their attractive premiums, only to realize how limited coverage can be, often resulting in huge and unexpected medical bills. These plans typically do not protect pre-existing conditions or cover important services like maternity or mental health. And they often come with strict limits on how much they cover. These plans are often marketed as a long-term plan and many consumers cannot tell the difference. To make sure health coverage is really there when people need it, short-term health plans should again be restored to their traditional goals.

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