This week, House Republicans officially released their alternative health care legislation, which the Congressional Budget Offices estimates would still leave 52 million Americans uninsured by 2019. The plan has been met with widespread criticism, focusing around the fact that the plan doesn’t bar insurers from rejecting coverage for people with pre-existing conditions. Today on Fox News, however, Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) tried to whitewash this point and simply insisted, “We actually do deal with pre-existing conditions in our bill”:
PENCE: You know, the Speaker has said it was scandalous — some interpretation of the Republican plan, which I am happy to talk about. We actually do deal with pre-existing conditions in our bill. But what’s scandalous is the Democrats launching a massive $1.2 trillion government takeover of health care paid for with more than $700 billion in tax increases on individuals and small businesses at a time when unemployment may well today come close to 10 percent.
Yesterday on MSNBC, Rep. Peter King (R-NY) similarly said that they “address the pre-existing conditions.” Both statements are misleading, and Republicans clearly recognize that they’re in an uncomfortable position because their bill doesn’t address one of the public’s top priorities in health care reform. A recent Wall Street Journal/NBC poll found that the public overwhelmingly wants final legislation to require “that health insurance companies cover people with pre-existing medical conditions.” Sixty-three percent of the respondents said that it “must” be included, and another 26 percent said they would “prefer” that it were there.
As Roll Call reported, Republicans “deal” with Americans with pre-existing conditions by forcing them into expensive high-risk pools:
And states would be eligible for a total of $15 billion [in federal funds] over the next 10 years in aid for creating high-risk pools for people whom private insurance companies refuse to cover because of pre-existing health conditions.
People with pre-existing conditions would pay up to 50 percent more than average for insurance coverage under the plan. States would have to cover the rest of the tab with a “stable funding source,” although the modest federal subsidy would cover a portion of the cost.
Most states already have such plans, which typically are much more expensive than regular insurance and have not made much of a dent in the ranks of the uninsured.
Even worse, high-risk pools would be able to deny coverage for pre-existing conditions that made people eligible in the first place. So people would be forced into the pools because of their pre-existing conditions, but the pools wouldn’t pay for treatment of that condition. President Obama and the Senate Finance Committee have also supported increased funding for high-risk pools, but only as a stop gap until 2013, when insurers would be prohibited from denying people coverage based on pre-existing conditions.