Sununu Misrepresents Bill: ‘I Wouldn’t Discriminate Against People With Pre-existing Conditions’

During last night’s senatorial debate in New Hampshire, Sen. John Sununu (R-NH) falsely suggested that his Making Health Care More Affordable Act of 2008 (S.3072) “wouldn’t discriminate against people with preexisting conditions”:

And I wouldn’t discriminate against people with preexisting conditions, no one should be for that. In fact, we have a health care affordability act at the federal level that prevents exactly that kind of discrimination.

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Given the toughness of his campaign, Sununu may not have had time to read his own bill, for it legitimizes the very same kind of discrimination he condemns.

The Making Health Care More Affordable Act of 2008 creates Association Health Care Plans that are exempt from state insurance regulations and consumer protections. Like the McCain plan, the Sununu proposal allows insurance companies “to be licensed in the state of their choice and sell policies to people in other states without adhering to the standards that would otherwise apply to them in each state.”

By relocating to the states with the least regulation, insurance companies could cherry-pick the most profitable risk pool (young and healthy workers), leaving older and sicker people behind. State-regulated health care plans would be left with a disproportionate number of older and sicker employees who are more expensive to cover. As a result, if enacted, this bill will result in higher premiums for four out of five small employers, the Congressional Budget Office estimates.

Small business groups, like the National Small Business Association, oppose Sununu’s bill:

AHP legislation would likely increase premiums for small employers and their workers, and make it much harder, if not impossible, for small business owners with older sicker workers to get access to affordable health coverage.

Sununu allows insurers to circumvent existing consumer protections, without establishing “any new national standards with which the plans must comply.” Thus, not only does his plan not prevent companies from discriminating against people with preexisting conditions, it practically encourages them to deny coverage to all but the healthiest Americans.