Saturday, May 06, 2017

Pre-existing conditions create a new problem

Fortunately that problem belongs to the Republican members of Congress who voted to repeal the ACA and its protections for people with pre-existing conditions. Since that vote Democrats and liberal/progressive groups have been battering Republicans like a Category 5 hurricane.
From the moment the Republican-controlled House of Representatives approved a plan to overhaul the health care system, an onslaught of opposition to the bill has been focused on a single, compact term: pre-existing conditions.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee began running digital ads warning that the legislation would leave “no more protections” for people with a history of illness or injury. Pointing to the power that states could have to set the terms for insurers under the G.O.P. bill, Democratic leaders announced they would make pre-existing conditions an issue in every gubernatorial and state legislative race in the country.

Groups on the left posted graphics online listing pre-existing conditions that could, in theory, threaten health care coverage, with some shared hundreds of thousands or millions of times. In one exaggerated claim circulating widely on social media on Friday, a post from a group called The People for Bernie Sanders listed nearly 100 conditions, from AIDS to ulcers, and said that for anyone who suffered from them, Republicans had voted “to end your health care.”

Individuals took up the call, too: More than 100,000 people posted on Twitter using the hashtag #IAmAPreexistingCondition, with many naming their own long-term illnesses or medical conditions.

The blast of organized and grass-roots energy in opposition to the bill had all been generated by one measure, added to the legislation to assure its passage, that allowed states to seek federal waivers to ignore certain mandates in the Affordable Care Act — including the one blocking insurance companies from charging people more because of pre-existing conditions.

More than anything else in the bill, Democrats and health care advocates have used that provision as a rallying cry, warning that it could inflict punishing costs on people with ailments from asthma to cancer, as well as on pregnant women.

Opponents of the bill have depicted its potential impact in nightmarish and sometimes overstated terms, suggesting it would completely void protections for sick people. In reality, insurers would still not be able to deny people coverage altogether, and states seeking waivers would have to show they had alternative programs to aid the people most at risk. People could be charged based on their health status only if they bought coverage through the individual market and had experienced a gap in coverage.

But many of the Democrats’ dire warnings are not far off the mark: Prices could indeed prove prohibitive.

And the political potency of these attacks is undeniable. Where the Affordable Care Act draws an iron rule governing coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, the Republican plan would create an opening for state-level programs that would likely offer far thinner protections for the roughly eight percent of Americans who rely on the individual market for coverage.
It would be hard to ask any group to walk more willingly into a buzz saw than the Republicans did with their vote. If they continue practicing their financial Darwinism (Survival of the Richest) it may be possible to rid ourselves of a great swath of the vermin in the next election.


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