Yesterday, in a speech at the LIVESTRONG Presidential Town Hall, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) conceded that his proposal to push Americans into the individual health insurance market could leave cancer patients without health insurance. But McCain promised that his Guaranteed Access Plan — which would subsidize state-run high-risk pools with federal and possibly industry money — will “help in the purchase of coverage for those hardest to insure”:
Some worry that even after this reform many Americans with pre-existing conditions — including many thousands of cancer patients — could still be denied insurance. And to make sure they get the high-quality coverage they need, I have proposed a — or GAP — that will combine industry, state, and federal resources to help in the purchase of coverage for those hardest to insure, including patients with pre-existing conditions. There would be limits on premiums, and lower-income Americans would get additional financial assistance.
Americans with cancer will need more “financial assistance” than McCain imagines. Financing insurance for the millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions who would lose employer-based coverage under McCain’s plan, would cost $100 billion a year, far more than the $10 billion McCain has proposed spending on shoring-up high risk programs.
In fact, the high cost of insuring a large pool of sick people has forced states to limit eligibility. As a result, the 33 states that run high risk pools “exclude from coverage the pre-existing condition that made you eligible for it in the first place.” According to Karen Pollitz, director of the Health Policy Institute at Georgetown University:
These programs [high risk pool programs] are very expensive…because [sick people] account for all of the spending. So these are very expensive programs for states to run…and so states look for ways to restrict these programs and in particular they have limited eligibility rules in some states, the premiums that they charge are exceedingly high…all of these pools will exclude from coverage the pre-existing condition that made you eligible for it in the first place.”
Given the high costs of running high-risk pools and McCain’s penchant for cutting government programs, it is likely that the senator’s Guaranteed Access Plan would leave cancer patients to finance their own treatments.