This morning, C-SPAN’s Washington Journal invited Rep. John Shadegg (R-AZ) — a 25-year veteran of Congress who is retiring from Congress at the end of this term — to discuss the prospects of health care reform passing the Congress. Asked to explain his reason for retiring, Shadegg said he was frustrated with Democrats’ reluctance to include Republican ideas in the health care reform bill and cited one “stunning” example in which Democrats didn’t even understand the Republican proposal:
SHADEGG: One of the big issues that I find stunning. Republicans proposed to deal with pre-existing conditions through what are called high-risk pools. As a week before the House bill passed, I was in a meeting where Democrats said, “well, what’s a high risk pool?,” and didn’t understand it. And then, two weeks ago at the summit, both Secretary Sebelius and President Obama revealed they don’t understand a high-risk pool and yet it’s not all that complicated. So I think Republicans were left out and that becomes frustrating. That contributed to my decision to say, “it’s time to move on.”
If Shadegg is leaving Congress because Democrats didn’t include high-risk pools in health care reform or failed to understand the idea, he should reconsider. Both the House and Senate health care bills would establish a federal high-risk pool that would allow Americans with pre-existing conditions to find affordable coverage in the period before the exchanges become available.
In fact, President Obama has long embraced the high-risk pool concept — which was part of Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) health care reform plan. “For those Americans who can’t get insurance today because they have pre-existing medical conditions, we will immediately offer low-cost coverage that will protect you against financial ruin if you become seriously ill. This was a good idea when Senator John McCain proposed it in the campaign, it’s a good idea now, and we should embrace it,” Obama said in September of 2009.
It’s worth noting that Shadegg would probably argue that Obama didn’t adopt McCain’s exact proposal, which called for funding state-based high risk pools. But Shadegg can’t expect Democrats to simply swallow Republican ideas; modifying and improving provisions is the very definition of compromise. As ABC News’ Teddy Davis points out, “by doing the risk pool at the federal level, it eliminates the risk that the program will become an unfunded mandate on the states. Currently, over 30 states have high-risk pools” and they “have struggled, however, to provide affordable insurance due to underfunding.