By John McClaughry
During the last national election campaign Democrats scored points by attacking Republicans for wanting to deny health insurance to people with pre-existing conditions. The Republicans couldn’t muster a good answer, even though they had one readily available.
The Patient Care Act, the leading Republican alternative, was designed to deal with just this problem. Persons who stayed continuously insured would be allowed to move between insurance coverage platforms without their health status factoring into the premiums they must pay for coverage. The 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act included provisions aimed at easing the transition between group coverage and state-regulated individual market plans. But the provisions addressing those transitions left gaps through which many people can, and do, still fall.
The Republican bill would have filled in those gaps, required state-regulated insurance plans to offer coverage to the continuously insured, and to guarantee its renewal. The continuous coverage requirement does not need to be burdensome. It can be satisfied through the purchase of low-cost catastrophic coverage as well as more comprehensive insurance plans.
There would have been a one-time open enrollment period during which persons who had not been previously insured could opt into coverage without facing higher premiums based on their health conditions.
These are reasonable provisions. Coupled with federally-funded state high risk pools, they would have decisively refuted the Democrats’ political attack. Too bad the Republicans didn’t mount a powerful counterattack on their opponents’ falsehoods.
John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute. Reprinted with permission from the Ethan Allen Institute Blog.