Short-term plans aren't true health insurance but low-quality, junk plans that leave users vulnerable – The Topeka Capital-Journal

Kacy Simonsen

We buy insurance with one goal in mind: To have financial protection if the worst were to happen. That’s true for every type of insurance, whether it’s coverage we buy to protect our car, our home or our health.

That’s why we were troubled by last week’s opinion piece by Elizabeth Patton (“Bill in the Kansas Legislature would allow more choice is needed for health insurance needs”).

The piece discusses a bill before the Kansas Legislature that would increase a type of low-quality health coverage product known as short-term plans. These plans are not true health insurance.

Typically, they do not cover pre-existing conditions or basic benefits like hospital visits or even prescription drugs. There’s no limit on how much they can charge customers, and people have no rights to appeal if they’re turned down for coverage.

They aggressively and inaccurately market to younger, healthy people. But as we all know, we’re only healthy until the day we’re not. We’re both moms who have experienced unexpected and serious health emergencies. One with a child diagnosed with leukemia and another who experienced multiple heart attacks at a young age.

Thankfully, we had comprehensive coverage, but we have heard far too many stories of patients with these junk plans who thought they were covered — until they got sick and realized they had little to no protection.

Don’t just take our word for it. Last year, virtually every major patient organization issued a warning to consumers that these plans are a bad deal.

Nancy Holland

“Basically anybody who knows anything about healthcare is opposed to these proposals,” said former Kansas insurance commissioner Sandy Praeger in 2018 of these types of plans. More than 300 physician, nurse, patient, health insurance, hospital and consumer advocacy organizations agreed with the substance of her remarks.

Once consumers learn the truth about these plans, they agree with the professionals. A poll just published by The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society found that 79% of Americans want short-term plans to follow the same rules as other insurance products — no more skimpy benefits, no more surprise coverage cancellations when illness strikes, no more hidden caps on coverage.

And that view is shared across party lines — a rare moment of agreement in these polarized times

We do agree with Patton on one thing: Our health care system is far from perfect. We’re eager to work with anyone who wants to ensure all Kansans can access affordable health coverage.

But an expansion of dangerous, cut-rate health plans that leave patients high and dry can’t be the solution.

Kacy Simonsen, of Topeka, is a Leukemia & Lymphoma Society volunteer, and Nancy Holland, of Leawood, is an American Heart Association volunteer.