Bare-bones health plans may stay under ACA

A provision of the Affordable Care Act may allow a form of "bare-bones" health plans to remain in effect.

So-called bare-bones, or “mini-med” health plans, which were supposed to be forbidden under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) may survive after all, Kaiser Health News and the Washington Post are reporting.

The two organizations say that proposed rules governing the ACA don’t bar large employers from offering insurance policies that could exclude costly benefits. The law says only that large-employer policies must cover preventive care such as blood pressure tests or vaccines with no copays. So a plan might not cover the  hospital care a patient could need for treatment of an illness.

Consumer advocates, employers, and insurers say that unless government regulators move to block them at the last minute, plans with limited benefits may continue to be offered by some large businesses, especially those with low-paid workers such as retail and restaurant chains.

The new rules prohibit capping the dollar value of annual benefits, but excluding entire categories from coverage, such as hospital stays, is permitted, say benefit consultants.