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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Do a quick search for health insurance, and you'll find plenty of ads for "Trumpcare" plans that cost $59 or less per month. But there's a catch: Trumpcare doesn't exist, and many of these advertised plans offer bare-bones coverage.

Why it matters: For people who buy health insurance on their own instead of receiving it through an employer, searching for a plan is already challenging. And deceptive marketing only makes it harder, especially when these plans will leave consumers on the hook for potentially ruinous medical bills.

Reality check: The primary way the Trump administration has altered the insurance market is by expanding niche products — including short-term plans, association plans and health reimbursement arrangements.

After seeing Trumpcare ads in search engines, I submitted contact information to get quotes about coverage options. Over the the next week, I was bombarded with 70 phone calls and 12 texts from insurance brokers.

  • Every broker I spoke to admitted there is no such thing as Trumpcare, and that it is a marketing ploy from the lead generator site.
  • When I asked how I could get the plan that was advertised for $59 or less per month, brokers said the ads were in reference to short-term plans or fixed indemnity plans that offer little to no coverage for serious illness or injury.

What they're saying: "These websites that are selling 'Trumpcare' are capitalizing on the fact that very few people know what's going on," said Louise Norris, an independent insurance broker in Colorado.

  • One family who recently bought a short-term plan through Health Insurance Innovations, a platform that has used fraudulent brokers, was on the hook for more than $244,000 in medical bills even though they thought they were protected, Bloomberg reported.

The other side: Jeff Smedsrud, co-founder of HealthCare.com, a site that has advertised "Trumpcare" plans, said he didn't think it was misleading to use that framing for plans that are sold through its brokers.

  • "Could it lead to confusion? I don't think it has. Anything is possible," he said. "I'll certainly look at what we do. I may have our team change our mind on that."

The bottom line: "It's impossible to expect consumers to discern between the good guys and the con artists," said Sabrina Corlette, a health insurance researcher at Georgetown University. "And it's not the good guys that pop up on the first page of your Google search results."

Go deeper

Updated 9 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

  1. Health: Most vulnerable Americans aren't getting enough vaccine information — Fauci says Trump administration's lack of facts on COVID "very likely" cost lives.
  2. Politics: Biden unveils "wartime" COVID strategyBiden's COVID-19 bubble.
  3. Vaccine: Florida requiring proof of residency to get vaccine — CDC extends interval between vaccine doses for exceptional cases.
  4. World: Hong Kong to put tens of thousands on lockdown as cases surge.
  5. Sports: 2021 Tokyo Olympics hang in the balance.
  6. 🎧 Podcast: Carbon Health's CEO on unsticking the vaccine bottleneck.

Trump impeachment trial to start week of Feb. 8, Schumer says

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Photo: The Washington Post via Getty

The Senate will begin former President Trump's impeachment trial the week of Feb. 8, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced Friday on the Senate floor.

The state of play: Schumer announced the schedule after reaching an agreement with Republicans. The House will transmit the article of impeachment against the former president late Monday.

10 hours ago - Health

CDC extends interval between COVID vaccine doses for exceptional cases

Photo: Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty

Patients can space out the two doses of the coronavirus vaccine by up to six weeks if it’s "not feasible" to follow the shorter recommended window, according to updated guidance from the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention.

Driving the news: With the prospect of vaccine shortages and a low likelihood that supply will expand before April, the latest changes could provide a path to vaccinate more Americans — a top priority for President Biden.