Tuesday, April 04, 2017

When your crappy healthcare plan fails


The logical follow-up is to put forth a plan that eliminates parts that the public favored by a large majority. And so Republican discussions for their second attempt at culling the sick and the weak from their beautiful society is demonstrably worse than the first.
Their efforts foundered last month, when a House health bill had to be pulled from the floor after it failed to attract enough support. Late Monday night, word emerged that the White House and the group of conservative lawmakers known as the Freedom Caucus had discussed a proposal to revive the bill. But the proposed changes would effectively cast the Affordable Care Act’s pre-existing conditions provision aside.

The terms, described by Representative Mark Meadows, Republican of North Carolina and the head of the Freedom Caucus, are something like this: States would have the option to jettison two major parts of the Affordable Care Act’s insurance regulations. They could decide to opt out of provisions that require insurers to cover a standard, minimum package of benefits, known as the essential health benefits. And they could decide to do away with a rule that requires insurance companies to charge the same price to everyone who is the same age, a provision called community rating.

The proposal is not final, but Mr. Meadows told reporters after the meeting that his members would be interested in such a bill. To pass the House, any bill would need to find favor not just with the Freedom Caucus, but also with more moderate Republicans. It would also need to attract the support of nearly every Republican in the Senate to become law.

The ability to opt out of the benefit requirements could substantially reduce the value of insurance on the market. A patient with cancer might, for example, still be allowed to buy a plan, but it wouldn’t do her much good if that plan was not required to cover chemotherapy drugs.

The second opt-out would make the insurance options for those with pre-existing conditions even more meaningless.

Technically, the deal would still prevent insurers from denying coverage to people with a history of illness. But without community rating, health plans would be free to charge those patients as much as they wanted. If both of the Obamacare provisions went away, the hypothetical cancer patient might be able to buy only a plan, without chemotherapy coverage, that costs many times more than a similar plan costs a healthy customer. Only cancer patients with extraordinary financial resources and little interest in the fine print would sign up.

There is a reason that many conservatives want to do away with these provisions. Because they help people with substantial health care needs buy relatively affordable coverage, they drive up the price of insurance for people who are healthy. An insurance market that did not include cancer care — or even any cancer patients — would be one where premiums for the remaining customers were much lower. The result might be a market that is much more affordable for people with a clean bill of health. But it would become largely inaccessible to anyone who really needs help paying for medical care.

We do not have to speculate to know what the world looks like without essential health benefits and community rating. It was how most state insurance markets worked before Obamacare. Back in 2009, most sick people who did not get insurance through work or a government program were excluded from coverage if they had a history of health problems like allergies or arthritis. Plans that did not cover pregnancy care or drug addiction treatment were widespread. (The data about individual market insurance premiums is a little spotty, but it appears that they were substantially lower in most states.)
What a diabolical and ideologically sound right wing idea for health insurance. A plan that doesn't cover what might ail you. The premiums could be kept low enough to insure profits without paying out all those expensive benefits. The whackdoodles of the Freedom Caucus might have a winner here.

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