Blue Cross Blue Shield Blue Crosschampions the new plans as offering an "attractive" option to thestate's 125,000 uninsured who can't get federal subsidies. (Photo:Shutterstock)

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A new short-term health care plan offering to be sold by BlueCross Idaho is touted by the company as providing comprehensivebenefits to purchasers who can't afford premiums for an Affordable CareAct plan.

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But skeptics doubt that, since, according to Modern Healthcare, the new plans still avoidsome ACA consumer protections—which could benefit healthypurchasers at the expense of people who rely on the exchanges forpolicy purchases.

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Blue Cross of Idaho claims that these new so-called "Access"policies will cost up to 40 percent less than ACA-compliantcoverage because sicker and riskier purchasers will not only be onthe hook for higher premiums, but will also be stuck with a12-month waiting period for coverage for pre-existing conditions.Both of those conditions are banned for ACA plans.

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Related: Affordability of short-term health plans a draw forolder enrollees

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Although critics deplore short-term plans for their shallownessof coverage, Blue Cross champions the new plans as offering an"attractive" option to the state's 125,000 uninsured who can't getfederal subsidies and also can't afford high exchange premiums. Theinsurer, it adds, expects 35,000 people to enroll in theplans—available starting January 1, 2020—over the next threeyears.

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"We wanted to get something out there that people could actuallyafford and get back into having their families covered," PeterSorensen, the insurer's vice president of individual and governmentmarkets, is quoted saying.

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Idaho has passed legislation that allows such insurers ofshort-term plans to offer renewable plans that are renewable—butthat can charge higher premiums to people with health conditions.Sick people could end up on the hook for maximum out-of-pocketlimits of at least $15,000 for a single person and $30,000 forfamilies under the most expensive plan. For ACA plans, on the otherhand, the out-of-pocket maximum in 2020 is $8,200 for individualsand $16,400 for families.

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"One of the biggest complaints about ACA plans is highdeductibles," says Sabrina Corlette, co-director of theGeorgetown University Center on Health Insurance Reforms, "and sohere we have a state that has been a strong opponent of the ACA andtheir alternative is a plan with a super-high deductible and thatdoesn't cover pre-existing conditions, and you get charged a higherpremium if you have any sort of health issues at all. States' timeand energy would have been far better spent trying to do somethinglike reinsurance and looking at ways to improve affordability foreverybody."

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Marlene Satter

Marlene Y. Satter has worked in and written about the financial industry for decades.