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Short-term health insurance in Pennsylvania

State defaults to the federal rules for plan duration, but Insurance Department strongly cautions residents about short-term plans

Buying short-term health plans in Pennsylvania

Duration of short-term plans in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania does not have regulations pertaining to the length of time that a short-term health insurance plan can remain in force, so the state defaults to the federal guidelines. Until October 2018, federal rules limited short-term plans to three months in duration. But the Trump Administration’s new rules for short-term plans allow for initial terms of up to 364 days and total duration, including renewal, of up to 36 months.

Insurance commissioner outspoken about short-term health insurance

Pennsylvania’s Insurance Commissioner, Jessica Altman, has been outspoken in her opposition to the Trump Administration’s rule change for short-term health plans. Altman submitted comments to HHS in April 2018, when the proposed rule was under consideration, making it clear that the expansion of short-term plans would be detrimental to consumers and to the ACA-compliant risk pool.

On August 1, when the new rules were finalized, Altman stated that she was “disappointed and extremely concerned,” noting that the final rule to expand short-term plans “opens the door further to confusion, uncertainty, market instability and even deceptive marketing.”

Later in August, Altman announced that short-term health insurance carriers in Pennsylvania would need to re-file their products with the Pennsylvania Insurance Department. This will allow regulators to verify that the plans are in compliance with the new rules, including the provision requiring a disclosure notice about what the plans do and do not cover.

The Pennsylvania Insurance Department has also created a brochure designed to warn consumers about the potential drawbacks of short-term plans, highlighting the fact that short-term plans are not required to cover the ACA’s essential health benefits, are not subject to medical loss ratio requirements, can cap lifetime and annual benefit amounts, and do not cover pre-existing conditions.

At least seven insurers offer short-term plans in Pennsylvania

  • Companion Life
  • Everest Prime
  • Independence American Insurance Company
  • LifeShield
  • National General
  • Standard Life
  • UnitedHealthcare (Golden Rule)

Louise Norris is an individual health insurance broker who has been writing about health insurance and health reform since 2006. She has written dozens of opinions and educational pieces about the Affordable Care Act for Her state health exchange updates are regularly cited by media who cover health reform and by other health insurance experts.