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Trump administration proposes 'short-term' healthcare plans within marketplace
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Crispin Torres

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The Trump administration's proposal to allow insurance companies to sell so-called "short-term" healthcare plan for up to a year ( they are currently capped at 90 days ) is cause for concern. As manager of policy and advocacy at Howard Brown Health, the largest LGBTQ health care organization in the Midwest, I am concerned that that this proposal is a veiled way to offer more affordable options for individuals under the Affordable Care Act. In reality, healthcare institutions—such as Howard Brown Health—who support low-income individuals in navigating insurance and provide healthcare, know that this proposal is far from affordable.

At Howard Brown Health, we serve nearly 30,000 patients annually. Many of these patients come to us to provide ongoing healthcare for chronic medical conditions, such as HIV and Hepatitis C, just to name two. Additionally, approximately 3,000 unique patients come to us for affordable and quality mental healthcare, which among many other areas of health, is especially hard to find. In its current form, this proposal will only create more barriers to patients seeking quality and affordable healthcare, as many preexisting conditions are listed as a barrier to care within this new plan.

Access to mental health, reproductive health and the ongoing treatment of chronic medical conditions are life-saving essential benefits. The Trump Administration's proposal aims to enable insurance companies to sell products that do not adhere to these essential benefits and additionally allow insurance caps. These proposals are harmful for many people living with pre-existing conditions, but are especially harmful for many people within the communities we serve: people living with HIV, expecting parents and aging adults. These plans, presented with low premiums, will mislead the healthcare consumer who cannot otherwise afford another option and will leave them without these essential coverages to help prevent illness, as well as treat ongoing conditions.

At Howard Brown Health, we believe that quality and affordable healthcare is a human right. This plan may provide "affordable coverage," but in reality, it does not even provide adequate coverage for health conditions, which is a dishonest and dangerous to the public's health. At a time when mental health is making national headlines and when cases of influenza are reaching record numbers, we know that healthcare plans should be made to treat and prevent those concerns, not ignore them.

We believe that this proposed plan is extremely dangerous, not only to the healthcare consumer but to the general public. At Howard Brown Health, we know firsthand that the challenges faced when acquiring quality and affordable healthcare are great, even with adequate options and reasonable insurance plans. Should this plan move forward, the risk faced by these patient populations will be extraordinary. Although the price tag may look appealing to some, the cost of one's health, and in some cases their life, will be all too high a price.

Howard Brown Health is submitting public comments to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to oppose the expansion of short-term plans. We will continue to advocate for affordable and accessible healthcare that is inclusive of all LGBTQ people, individuals living with chronic conditions, like HIV, and anyone who seeks care.

Crispin Torres is manager of policy and advocacy with Howard Brown Health, the Midwest's largest LGBTQ nonprofit healthcare organization serving more than 27,000 adults and youth each year in its health and social-service delivery system.

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