Reliably wingnutty Judge Richard Leon, of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, has ruled that the Trump administration can break the law, in this case the Affordable Care Act, and expand the sale of junk, short-term health insurance policies.
The ACA allowed for the sale of bare-bones insurance plans that don’t meet the essential benefits coverage standards established in the law for a duration of no longer than three months. They were intended to be used as bridge plans for people outside of the window of open enrollment periods who didn’t have qualifying life events to allow them onto the exchanges. The Trump administration has issued a rule to allow the plans to last as long as 364 days and to be renewable for three years.
Challengers argued that this would undermine the ACA markets, driving healthy people out of the larger pool into these cheap, crappy plans and causing premiums to increase for people in the ACA-compliant plans. They also argued, correctly, that this undermines the protections for people with pre-existing conditions under the law. The short-term plans Trump is allowing would not have to extend those protections. Leon was not swayed by reality.
“Not only is any potential negative impact” from the rule “minimal, but its benefits are undeniable,” he wrote, saying that there is no evidence that the rule “is having or will have the type of impact—substantial exodus from the individual market exchanges—that would threaten the ACA’s structural core.” The benefits of people having nothing but crap insurance plans for as long as three years is unclear, should any of those people need health insurance. The savings they’d see in premiums would be completely wiped out, many times over, were they to be sick or injured.
It’s hard to imagine that people, including federal judges, are really so stupid that they don’t understand the basic premise of how health insurance works, but the evidence from Republicans and partisans such as Leon argues otherwise. That, or they’re just fundamentally dishonest and don’t give a damn, and so cynically make this shit up. Which is likelier.
The D.C. Circuit is not dominated by troglodytes, so this ruling will probably be tossed out on appeal. But the fact remains that hyperpartisan judges like Leon and those on the 5th Circuit who look ready to toss the entire ACA are going to make political life very hard for Republicans in 2020. Which is just deserts.