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U.S. to extend skimpy health insurance outside of Obamacare

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) – The U.S. government on Tuesday proposed extending the availability of skimpy health insurance plans to millions of Americans in another Trump administration move aimed at undercutting the requirements of the Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued a proposed rule that such plans, now available only for periods of three months or less, will be available for up to 12 months. The agency is considering whether these plans will be renewable.

The plans will not include the benefits that define the insurance created under Democratic former President Barack Obama, including required health benefits such as maternity coverage and the guarantee of insurance regardless of health.

Obamacare currently allows for such short-duration plans, but they are limited to three months. The agency said it expects 100,000 to 200,000 people to shift from an Obamacare plan to such insurance in 2019 when the rule would go into effect, but that millions more people who have no insurance will likely sign up.

Republican President Donald Trump last year issued an executive order requiring the agency, which oversees the Obamacare individual market, to propose such a rule as part of its goal to make health insurance more affordable. The order also required an extension of association-based health plans that do not comply with Obamacare and more use of tax-free health savings accounts.

Reporting by Caroline Humer; Editing by Jonathan Oatis

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