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Federal judge upholds Trump administration's expansion of non-ObamaCare insurance plans


A federal judge on Friday upheld the Trump administration's expansion of health insurance plans that don't meet ObamaCare's coverage requirements.

U.S. District Judge Richard Leon in Washington ruled against the insurance companies that sued the administration in an attempt to block the rules.

"Not only is any potential negative impact from the 2018 rule minimal, but its benefits are undeniable," Leon wrote about the regulations.

The plans aims to "minimize the harm and expense" for individuals who might otherwise decide not to purchase insurance because of high premiums, Leon added.

The Trump administration issued a regulation last year allowing short-term health care plans to last up to 12 months instead of three. These plans were originally intended as an option for individuals who need to bridge a gap in health insurance coverage.

But the administration extended the length of time they can be sold to provide customers with more affordable options.

The plans generally cost less because they don’t have to comply with coverage requirements set by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), such as maternity care and prescription drugs.

The short-term plans can also deny coverage to sick people, which ObamaCare insurers are prohibited from doing.

Insurers who sued the administration said this put them at an unfair disadvantage because they're required to cover these services and must charge higher premiums. They argued the availability of short-term plans could draw away their healthy, young customers who might not feel like they need comprehensive insurance. 

But Leon wrote in his ruling that the plaintiffs were unable to prove that the changes actually impacted their enrollment in 2019.

The Association for Community Affiliated Plans (ACAP), the plaintiff in the case, said in a statement that it would appeal the decision.

"We remain firm in our contention that the Trump administration’s decision to expand dramatically the sale of junk insurance violates the Affordable Care Act and is arbitrary and capricious," said Margaret Murray, chief executive officer of ACAP.

“We are confident that the appellate court will see this differently.”

The Trump administration has been looking for ways to dismantle ObamaCare through regulation after Congress failed to repeal it in 2017.

But its success has been mixed. A federal judge blocked the administration's regulation in March that would have allowed small businesses to band together to sell association health plans that don't have to follow ObamaCare's rules.

The judge called the plans an "end run around the ACA."

A federal judge in Washington has also blocked the administration's Medicaid work requirements in Kentucky and Arkansas.

Meanwhile, the administration is supporting a lawsuit filed by Republican attorneys general that seeks to overturn ObamaCare.

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