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Shaheen, Hassan Join Group of Senators Urging Biden Administration to Limit Availability of Junk Health Care Plans

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) joined a group of 32 Senators in a letter urging the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to take immediate action and address short-term limited duration insurance (STLDI) plans, or junk plans, which fail to provide adequate, comprehensive health insurance coverage.

Junk plans can deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions and don’t have to cover essential services like maternity care, prescription drugs, substance use disorder treatment and emergency room care.

In 2018, in an effort to sabotage the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Trump administration made junk plans more widely available to consumers. Since then, these plans have continued to expand, however, they are not required to adhere to important standards, including prohibitions on discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions, coverage for the 10 essential health benefit (EHB) categories and annual out-of-pocket maximums. .

“Now, more than ever, the Department of Health and Human Services must act. Beginning in April, millions of Americans will likely lose the Medicaid coverage that they have relied upon during the COVID-19 pandemic. We must protect those who will be looking for coverage in the near future and take steps to ensure that these plans are not allowed to further proliferate,” wrote the Senators. “It is past time for your Department to step up and address the expansion and proliferation of junk plans.”

The letter was led by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Chris Murphy (D-CT). The letter was also signed by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Bob Casey (D-PA), Christopher Coons (D-DE), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Timothy Kaine (D-VA), Angus King (I-ME), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Edward Markey (D-MA), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Patty Murray (D-WA), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Gary Peters (D-MI), Jack Reed (D-RI), Tina Smith (D-MN), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Mark Warner (D-VA), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Peter Welch (D-VT). 

Full text of the letter can be found here. 

Shaheen has consistently pushed for efforts to limit the sale and availability of short-term, limited-duration insurance (STLDI) plans, also known as junk plans. Senators Shaheen, Baldwin and Warner previously called on the last administration to do more to prevent third-party web brokers from steering individuals toward junk health insurance plans that do not provide coverage of pre-existing conditions or essential health benefits. In addition, Shaheen has led efforts in Congress to protect and improve the ACA. During the COVID-19 public health emergency, Shaheen spearheaded Senate Democrats’ proposal to make health care affordable and accessible for Americans. More recently, Shaheen led efforts to lower premiums to make health insurance more affordable for patients through her signature legislation, the Improving Health Insurance Affordability Act. Portions of Shaheen’s bill that provide temporary premium tax credits were included in the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). Shaheen’s standalone bill would make permanent enhanced tax credits that led to the record 2023 Marketplace enrollment, while reducing health care costs for tens of thousands of Granite Staters and millions of additional Americans. 

As a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, Senator Hassan has led efforts to expand access to affordable health insurance and lower health care costs. During the previous administration, Senator Hassan fought back against its attempts to undermine the Affordable Care Act and push “junk” insurance plans that weaken pre-existing condition protections. Senator Hassan also led successful bipartisan efforts to help eliminate surprise medical billing, which has prevented at least 9 million surprise bills. Additionally, the Inflation Reduction Act included a number of key provisions that Senator Hassan pushed for to take on Big Pharma and address the skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs, including allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices – which will bring down the cost of prescription drugs for Medicare beneficiaries and help drive down prices across the board – and capping out-of-pocket expenses for Medicare prescription drugs. Senator Hassan is also working across the aisle to make cheaper generic drugs more available, including securing three bipartisan measures in the year-end funding bill, which is now law, to increase access to generic and biosimilar medications.