By Robert Pear

New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration announced a new policy Monday making it easier for states to circumvent coverage requirements and consumer protections in the Affordable Care Act.

States could, for example, use federal funds to subsidize short-term insurance plans with skimpy benefits and fewer protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

Oregon’s Sen. Ron Wyden, the senior Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, said the administration’s new policy “rolls out the red carpet for junk insurance.”

The timing of the announcement, just before an election in which the protection of people with pre-existing conditions has been a top-tier issue, was puzzling. In a separate initiative Monday, the administration said it was proposing a regulation to let employers provide money to employees to buy individual health insurance coverage on their own, rather than enrolling in an employer-sponsored health plan.

Seema Verma, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, who devised the policy allowing states more flexibility, said it was necessary to achieve President Donald Trump’s goals: to make health insurance more affordable by expanding choices, increasing competition, reducing federal regulations and giving states more power to revamp their health insurance markets. She said states had asked for more flexibility.

Under the new policy, states will be able to count people with short-term insurance as having coverage even though it does not provide all the benefits required by the Affordable Care Act.

The new guidance takes effect immediately, but consumers will not feel its effect until 2020 because benefits and premiums for next year have already been set.

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