Sens. Tom Carper and Chris Coons, both D-Delaware, joined Sen. Mark R. Warner, D-Virginia, and 37 of their colleagues Oct. 3. in urging the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to protect individuals with preexisting conditions by limiting the proliferation of “junk plans” — short-term insurance plans that can exclude coverage for essential benefits and provide no protections for Americans with preexisting conditions.

“We have heard from patients, physicians, independent experts and other health care stakeholders that individuals with preexisting conditions are being negatively impacted by your administration’s actions,” wrote the senators. “More recently, we have seen the real world negative impact on individuals who have unknowingly enrolled in these deceptively marketed junk plans. Just this month, Bloomberg reported Arizona resident David Diaz unknowingly purchased a short-term health plan that did not cover preexisting conditions and placed ambiguous limits on emergency room care and other essential health care services. His family has been left with hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical debt. The Washington Post similarly reported on Jesse Lynn, who purchased a short-term health plan not realizing his back problem would be considered a preexisting condition. Jesse’s insurance company refused to cover his care — forcing his family into bankruptcy.”

“The administration’s rule on state waivers allows taxpayer dollars to go to these junk plans, accelerating the problems we are already seeing with junk plans and leaving fewer resources for people who purchase high quality insurance,” the senators continued. “Additionally, the administration’s new rule weakens coverage by allowing waivers that increase premiums and out-of-pocket costs for those who need health care most. We have worked tirelessly to protect individuals with preexisting conditions from barriers to coverage. We urge you to do the same, including by limiting the proliferation of short-term junk plans and ensuring that consumers in every state are protected by federal consumer protections for people with preexisting conditions.”

The Trump administration recently issued a rule that allows states to ignore federal consumer protections and use taxpayer dollars to subsidize junk insurance plans that cover less and cost more. These junk plans can exclude coverage of essential benefits like prescription drugs, emergency room visits, maternity care or mental health care. Additionally, under this rule, states can give insurance companies the green light to discriminate against Americans with preexisting conditions by increasing costs, limiting coverage or denying coverage altogether.

In their letter, the senators urged HHS Secretary Alex Azar and CMS Administrator Seema Verma to limit the spread of short-term junk plans and safeguard Affordable Care Act protections that increase access to affordable and comprehensive health insurance, and forbid insurance companies from discriminating against individuals with preexisting conditions.

The full text of the letter is available at bit.ly/2nZffzr.