On Monday afternoon, Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) was asked by CNN’s Jake Tapper about House Republicans’ resurrected health insurance bill that the Trump administration is currently trying to muscle through Congress.
So far, at least 21 mostly moderate Republicans have said they planned to vote no on the revised bill, citing, among other things, the lack of protections for patients with pre-existing conditions. Despite assurances from Trump himself that Americans with pre-existing conditions would be protected from insurance providers cutting their coverage, the current House bill would allow states to give providers license to effectively deny insurance to anyone with a pre-existing condition by siphoning those individuals into so-called high risk pools, which are prohibitively expensive. The change was made at the behest of Brooks and his fellow members of the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus, which blocked the first version of Trumpcare because it wasn’t punitive enough.
But as Rep. Brooks sees it, being afflicted with a serious or life-threatening pre-existing condition is the price you pay if you don’t live a healthy lifestyle.
“My understanding is that it will allow insurance companies to require people who have higher health care costs to contribute more to the insurance pool,” said Brooks. “That helps offset all these costs, thereby reducing the cost to those people who lead good lives, they’re healthy, they’ve done the things to keep their bodies healthy. And right now those are the people—who’ve done things the right way—that are seeing their costs skyrocketing.”
A study by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services published in 2011 found that as many as half of Americans could be denied health insurance coverage due to a pre-existing condition, which is defined as any medical condition that existed prior to enrolling in health insurance. A cancer diagnoses would qualify as a pre-existing condition, but so too would asthma or even a pregnancy.
Rep. Brooks’ argument echos a similar one made by Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) several weeks ago when the House was debating the first version of Trumpcare. With a fancy chart by his side, Ryan bemoaned the unfairness of a system in which people who are generally healthy end up subsidizing the cost for people who need medical care. Why should healthy people shoulder some of the costs for sick people?
Of course, that is the very definition of insurance. It exists so that if you should suddenly fall ill, or sustain an unexpected injury, or are impregnated, your health costs don’t skyrocket.
Rep. Brooks seemingly acknowledged as much later on during his CNN interview. “In fairness, a lot of these people with pre-existing conditions, they have those conditions through no fault of their own,” he said. “And I think our society, under those circumstances, needs to help.” He’ll no doubt be pleased to know that Obamacare is the law of the land, and already provides protections for anyone with a pre-existing condition.