"The High Costs Of High-Risk Pools"
Today, NPR’s Julie Rovner examined the implications of Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) proposal to insure uninsurable Americans — individuals who are unable to obtain coverage in the private market due to their medical history — through state-run high risk pools. As Rovner explains, high-risk pools are plagued by waiting periods, premiums that are out of reach for many families, substantial deductibles and co-pays, and limits on mental health and maternity care.
The McCain campaign responds to criticism that high-risk pools provide inadequate coverage and access by suggesting that their Guaranteed Access Plan (GAP) is modeled on the best examples in the states, namely the Minnesota high-risk pool program. But Minnesota, like the other 35 states that run high-risk pool programs, limits eligibility to control costs:
The McCain campaign, recognizing the program’s limitations, says it “might” subsidize GAP “to those making up to four times the federal poverty level, or $41,600 for a single person” but has not made a decision about “waiting periods for pre-existing conditions.” But “subsidies already cover around 50 percent of high-risk pool costs, and expansion of these programs could cost $100 billion.”
With America in the middle of a financial crisis, the likelihood of subsidizing high-risk pools seems like a distant possibility.
UPDATE: Peter Harbage examines Alaska’s high-risk pool program here.