WASHINGTON, DC — Though one of the key successes — and most popular aspects — of the Affordable Care Act is the provision banning insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) thinks they were better off before the law passed.
ThinkProgress spoke with DeMint outside a tea party rally nearby where the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the constitutionality of the individual mandate. The second-term South Carolina senator called the pre-existing condition clause simply an “excuse for government to run health care.” We asked whether people with such conditions would get less health care under Obamacare than they did prior to its enactment. “They probably will,” declared DeMint.
DEMINT: I can guarantee you people with pre-existing conditions are going to get less health care—lower quality health care—under Obamacare than they would under a state-run plan.
KEYES: Do you think they get less health care under Obamacare than they did before Obamacare was enacted?
DEMINT: They probably will. It will definitely cost more for everyone and it will be inefficient and it won’t be as patient-focused. And so we need to make sure that we do the thing the right way and there are ways that everyone can have insurance, and that’s our goal.
While DeMint may think care will be worse for those with pre-existing conditions, this is simply not true. Nearly 50,000 people previously turned down because of a pre-existing condition have already been able to receive health care because of the ACA and the new Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan that the law created. Already, health care reform has stopped discrimination against children with pre-existing conditions. By 2014, that same law will apply to all adults, ensuring that everyone with an existing medical problem is able to get the care they need.
Republicans are currently pushing for the repeal of the ACA as the Supreme Court hears a case on the constitutionality of the individual mandate section of the law. If the mandate were to be repealed, health insurers would likely have to once again deny coverage to those with pre-existing conditions, because it would be unsustainable to have an insurance pool made up of only “high risk” people.
Yet for DeMint, that world where insurance companies could deny health insurance to people with pre-existing conditions is not only preferable, but somehow better for such people. If Republicans get their wish, DeMint’s vision may soon be realized at the expense of health care for millions of Americans with existing medical problems.