Washington, D.C., Jan. 25, 2022 — An overwhelming majority of adults (79%) believes the government should regulate insurance products that exploit loopholes to discriminate against cancer patients and others with pre-existing conditions, according to a new national survey.
Health insurers are increasingly selling the coverage – known as short-term, limited-duration plans – following a 2018 federal rule change. The plans largely operate outside the scope of state and federal laws that are designed to protect consumers, meaning they typically offer fewer benefits – excluding, for example, coverage for mental health and prescription drugs – and leave patients on the hook for the cost of their treatment. Despite their name, short-term plans are permitted to cover patients for years.
Americans of all political stripes – including 86% of Democrats, 77% of Independents, and 78% of Republicans – believe short-term plans should be subject to the same rules as traditional health insurance. And 70% of Americans believe the government is the only entity with the power to protect consumers from these plans.
“Short-term health plans have major shortfalls and leave patients vulnerable if they face a serious, unexpected diagnosis like cancer,” said Gwen Nichols, MD, LLS chief medical officer. “These plans are so problematic that — despite the political divisions in our country — Americans are united in their opposition to them. We urge lawmakers to listen to voters and protect patients.”
The nationally representative survey was conducted in late 2021 by PerryUndem and Bellwether Research for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. The survey of 1,130 U.S. adults was conducted in English and Spanish using the NORC/AmeriSpeak panel.
A recent U.S. House committee investigation found that short-term insurance plans often rescind coverage when patients get sick, refuse to cover even basic forms of medical care and discriminate against patients with pre-existing conditions like cancer by charging them higher premiums or denying them coverage.
Customers with short-term plans have no right to appeal their insurer’s decisions. And many studies show the plans rely on misleading marketing to obtain customers by touting lower premiums without providing transparent information about the lack of coverage. An overwhelming majority of respondents (92%) feel people “can get duped into buying poor-quality coverage” despite asking the right questions beforehand.
The survey found that younger adults (24%), Black adults (27%) are the groups most open to enrolling in these plans.
“We must work together to stop insurers from selling health plans that provide little to no coverage while collecting consumers’ premiums,” said Delaware Insurance Commissioner Trinidad Navarro, who created a working group of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners that examines improper marketing of health plans. “The LLS study shows that this isn’t a partisan issue. I hope the Biden Administration and members of Congress see that this widely-supported policy change needs to be made as soon as possible to protect consumers’ rights to comprehensive health coverage.”
The survey also suggests those in the business of selling insurance will suffer reputational harm if they sell consumers insufficient coverage without proper warnings. Consumers overwhelmingly said health insurance agents and brokers are responsible for the quality of the plans they sell consumers (82%), and 88% of consumers said they’d have a negative view of their insurance agent or broker if they ultimately faced higher-than-expected medical bills.
Senior Director, Advocacy Communications
About The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society® (LLS) is a global leader in the fight against cancer. The LLS mission: Cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin's disease and myeloma. LLS funds lifesaving blood cancer research around the world, provides free information and support services, and is the voice for all blood cancer patients seeking access to quality, affordable, coordinated care.
Founded in 1949 and headquartered in Rye Brook, New York, LLS has regional offices throughout the United States and Canada. To learn more, visit www.LLS.org. Patients should contact the LLS Information Resource Center at (800) 955-4572, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. ET.