Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Four Questions for Democrats on Pre-Existing Conditions

The Administration today released a “report” claiming that up to 129 million Americans “could be denied affordable coverage” if the health care law is repealed.  Advocates of the law, if they wish to assert that hundreds of millions of Americans could be denied coverage due to a pre-existing condition, should answer these four related questions:

  1. How can new benefits be provided to up to 82 million working Americans without raising premiums?   The report claims that the health care law provides new benefits to 32 million to 82 million individuals with employer-based coverage, by eliminating annual and lifetime limits and imposing other new mandates on employer plans.  Yet the Administration claims that such benefits will only raise premiums 1 to 2 percent.  Attempting to claim the law will benefit 82 million Americans while raising premiums only modestly is attempting to have both sides of the political argument.
  2. If 129 million Americans have pre-existing conditions, why have only 8,000 applied for coverage under the law’s new high-risk pools?   The Washington Post reported last month that the latest figures indicate only 8,000 individuals with pre-existing conditions have applied for coverage under the new high-risk pools created by the health care law.  If anything like the number of individuals claimed in the HHS report applied for high-risk pool coverage, the $5 billion in spending allocated to the program between now and 2014 would quickly be exhausted.  Again, the Administration can’t have it both ways – trying to claim that 129 million Americans with pre-existing conditions will benefit from the law, while only .006% of these individuals have actually benefited from the high-risk pool program thus far.
  3. How many children with pre-existing conditions have been unable to purchase coverage because the law has resulted in insurers dropping child-only health insurance plans?  Multiple press reports have indicated that insurance carriers in many states have decided to stop selling child-only insurance plans, due to the way in which the law’s insurance mandates and regulations have been implemented.  This ominous development could portend additional difficulties for individuals with pre-existing conditions who attempt to obtain coverage in 2014, when the individual mandate and related coverage expansions take effect.
  4. If “consumer protections” for individuals under age 65 with preexisting conditions are so positive, why are senior citizens exempt from the supposed benefits?  The Wall Street Journal and other outlets have reported that Medigap supplemental insurance policies remain exempt from the law’s new ban on pre-existing condition discrimination, such that AARP can continue to impose waiting periods for sick individuals seeking to buy its policies.  Those who support the law’s pre-existing condition provisions should explain why the law exempts Medigap plans – which AARP, a key Democrat ally, just happens to sell in large quantities – sold to seniors from those “protections.”