July 19 (UPI) -- A federal judge in Washington, D.C., on Friday upheld the legality of the Trump administration's short-term healthcare plans, which fall outside the requirements of the Affordable Care Act.
District Judge Richard Leon said the plans "minimize the harm and expense" for Americans who are unable to afford traditional health insurance plans through the Healthcare Marketplace.
The Health and Human Services Department introduced the plans a year ago, allowing Americans to buy short-term coverage for up to 12 months with the option to renew the plan up to three years. Under the prior rule, buyers could keep the coverage for a maximum of three months.
The administration's health insurance plans are typically less expensive than traditional health insurance. Opponents view them, though, as "junk insurance" that return some Americans to the pre-ACA period of inadequate medical coverage.
Short-term plans are typically transitional coverage used in stopgap situations, like time between jobs or school semesters. They could offer a lower-priced alternative to ACA plans for about 7 million people who don't qualify for subsidies.
A group of insurance companies sued the Trump administration over the short-term plans, saying the option of the cheaper plans is drawing healthy, young customers away from the companies' more costly services, which they're required by law to offer. Leon ruled that the companies were unable to prove such plans had an affect on their enrollment numbers.
"Not only is any potential negative impact from the 2018 rule minimal, but its benefits are undeniable," he wrote.
The Association for Community Affiliated Plans, the plaintiff in the case, said it plans to appeal the ruling.
"We remain firm in our contention that the Trump administration's decision to expand dramatically the sale of junk insurance violates the Affordable Care Act and is arbitrary and capricious," ACAP CEO Margaret Murray said. "Indeed, the district court itself recognized that administration's decision allows junk insurance to compete directly with comprehensive, Affordable Care Act-compliant insurance plans.
"That result subverts the healthcare protections of the ACA. Junk insurance, no matter what it's called, is an inferior and hazardous substitute for comprehensive coverage."