Editorial: Allow more to buy catastrophic health plans

No matter if you believe the Affordable Care Act was the right remedy or a disease, there can be ways to improve it.

Consumers should get another choice that’s more affordable. Insurers should be able to offer lower-premium catastrophic plans to everyone.

Catastrophic coverage is already available for people under 30 and for people who qualify for a hardship exemption.

Premiums for catastrophic plans are lower than the so-called bronze tier. In Oregon that difference for a 28-year-old can be $11 a month and more.

The essential health benefits mandated under the law would still be included under the catastrophic plan. All preventive health would still be available at zero cost. It could be made eligible for tax credits.

The trade-off for consumers who buy it would be higher out-of-pocket expenses and higher deductibles.

There is no question that insurance companies believe they can make this offering work financially. The largest industry group in the country supports the change. America’s Health Insurance Plans says it could be a way of motivating more consumers to buy insurance.

But we do think it would likely be better to allow this change in a few trial states first to be able to assess any unintended consequences.

When it comes to a diversity of health insurance offerings, Oregonians are already lucky in a way. Sure, the Cover Oregon website failed spectacularly. But in Oregon there are a number of insurance companies to choose from. As long as they are not driven out of business, Oregon consumers do get more choices than many in other states.

Enabling those companies to offer catastrophic plans to more Oregonians can be one way to improve the ACA.