Prior to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), cancer survivors were at the mercy of the health care system, often forced to pay exorbitant premiums or simply denied coverage altogether. Today, America’s 16 million cancer survivors benefit from the ACA’s patient protections that are critical to providing them with quality, affordable, and accessible health care coverage. NCCS is actively engaged in advocating to ensure this unprecedented access for cancer patients and providers continues.

Earlier this week, Iowa passed a law allowing the sale of health plans that are not subject to the important patient protection rules and regulations contained in the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

The law includes very specific carveout language that basically selects the Iowa Farm Bureau to partner with a designated insurance company (Wellmark) to offer so-called “health benefit plans” with no preexisting condition or essential health benefit protections. As such, the law allows certain health plans to discriminate against those with preexisting conditions and exclude certain benefits—anything from prenatal care to prescription drugs.

As Vox.com reports, it does this in a way that most experts think is perfectly legal—by making clear in the new legislative language that these products are not health insurance. The insurance department in Iowa won’t regulate these plans as health plans. Therefore, they don’t have to play by Obamacare rules.

Health policy experts say the legislation is unusual because few states have tried to take themselves out of regulating health insurance. This is yet another attempt to undermine the ACA after legislative attempts to repeal the law failed last year in Congress.

In addition to the Iowa action, the Trump administration is also actively sabotaging the ACA through regulatory means, as we have reported.

In February, the administration released proposed rules that would loosen regulations on short-term limited-duration health insurance coverage.

Short-term coverage is not subject to the ACA’s patient protections and can deny coverage due to a preexisting condition or charge people more based on their health status, impose annual or lifetime limits, and fail to cover essential health benefits. Because short-term plans provide skimpy coverage, these plans are much cheaper and therefore healthy people will likely leave ACA-compliant plans for short-term coverage, which would seriously undermine the ACA risk pool and drive up marketplace premiums for people without tax credits.

There is an opportunity to submit comments to the Federal Registrar to explain how this proposal would negatively impact cancer survivors, and the threat posed to individuals who will be diagnosed with cancer in the future.

Next week, NCCS will be hosting a webinar to provide background information on the proposed rule and step-by-step instructions on how to submit comments to influence the regulatory process and stand up for patients. For more information about registering for the webinar, contact Lindsay Houff at lhouff@canceradvocacy.org, or use our “Contact Us” form.

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