Congressman Steve Scalise, the Majority Whip of the House of Representatives, appeared on national TV on Friday morning and assured the American people that everyone with a pre-exisiting condition will be able to afford insurance under Trumpcare.
Scalise made his claim on Morning Joe to a somewhat mystified panel of questioners.
Here are the facts.
The bill that the House passed on Thursday would let insurance companies resume the practice of discriminating against people with pre-exisiting conditions who have a gap in coverage. This would allow companies to effectively price out people with expensive pre-exisiting conditions from the market.
Pre-exisiting conditions include a variety of common health issues including pregnancy, obesity, sleep apnea, and drug addiction. Other common “pre-exisiting conditions” used to justified rate increases before Obamacare include “high blood pressure, behavioral health disorders, high cholesterol, asthma and chronic lung disease, and osteoarthritis.”
Recognizing this reality, Trumpcare provides funding for a separate “high-risk pool” where people with these conditions who are unable to afford traditional insurance could try to obtain coverage.
This is not a terrible idea in theory, but the problem is that Trumpcare severely underfunds the high risk pool. According to an analysis by the Center for American Progress*, at the current level of funding, the average premium in the high-risk pool would be $31,000 per year. This would be unaffordable for the vast majority of Americans.
In order to reduce the premium in the high-risk pool to a somewhat more affordable $10,000 per year, Trumpcare would have to provide about $33 billion in subsidies annually. The current bill provides just $13 billion in subsidies, creating a $20 billion yearly shortfall.
This means that may people with pre-exisiting conditions who experience a gap in coverage would be priced out of the traditional insurance market and still unable to afford insurance in the high-risk pool.
Republicans were able to scrape together enough votes by providing an additional $8 billion to the pool over 5 years — just $1.6 billion per year — a drop in the bucket compared to the $200 billion funding shortfall over 10 years.
Scalise, however, is unable or unwilling to grapple with that reality.
*ThinkProgress is an editorially independent project of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, the sister organization of the Center for American Progress.