Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Huckacare's Government Option, Part 2

Yesterday, I posted (here and at Rightosphere) Mike Huckabee’s solution to the problem of pre-existing conditions. Huck states,

I truly believe those people should be covered and can be covered by individual states creating pools that provide coverage for people in high-risk categories.

I received quite a response from friends and foes of the former governor of Arkansas. The best response that I received in defense of Huck’s perceived support of a government option was that in this case it is okay since those who are “uninsurable” only encompass about 1-2% of the population. Huckabee supporters are willing to tolerate what they refer to as a small safety net. In contrast, they are highly critical of Romneycare which they believe was an intrusion of the government in people’s lives.

The problem with this defense is that it is not even close to being accurate. The uninsurable encompass a much greater number than 1-2%. Empirical evidence reveals a widespread problem.

A recent national survey estimated that 12.6 million non- elderly adults – 36 percent of those who tried to purchase health insurance directly from an insurance company in the individual insurance market – were in fact discriminated against because of a pre-existing condition in the previous three years.

In another survey, one in 10 people with cancer said they could not obtain health coverage, and six percent said they lost their coverage, because of being diagnosed with the disease.

In 2009, the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations conducted an investigation on three insurance companies and found that in a five-year period these three companies cancelled the coverage of over 20,000 people in an effort to save more than $3 million from medical claims. Again, we are only talking about three insurance companies.

As Barbara O’Brien explained.

One of the execs claimed the rescissions — industry jargon for canceling coverage — were necessary to protect the companies from fraud. People lie about preexisting conditions on their applications, he said, and this drives up the cost of insurance for everyone else.

Exactly. So what Huckabee envisions is that cash-strapped states should pool their own money and cover the costs of the uninsurable. Yet, he doesn’t tell us what an extensive cost this would be. Furthermore, the costs of covering the uninsurable would be greatly expanded because the state government in question would have to set up an entire bureaucracy to prevent fraudulent claims. Huck takes this position because he wants to avoid the obvious answer of letting the government force its citizens to pay for their own insurance and force the insurance companies to cover everyone.

Huckabee’s problem with preexisting conditions is exacerbated when we consider one of his best groups of supporters ---- women. From Amie Newman.

1. Only 14 states require insurance companies to cover maternity care.

2. Only 12% of individual insurance plans include comprehensive maternity coverage

3. Insurance companies can consider prior cesarean sections as a "pre-existing condition" and deny a woman coverage for childbirth. Additionally, in Florida for example, women who have had c-sections are charged 25% more in premiums if they want to retain their health insurance coverage of birth.

4. In Illinois, according to a Chicago Sun-Times article on 6/26/07, a woman's emergency c-section (much to her physician's consternation) was denied coverage by BlueCross BlueShield.

5. For that matter, pregnancy itself is often considered a "pre-existing condition" by insurance company, therefore a reason to deny coverage. According to a 2008 study conducted by the National Women's Law Center, "The vast majority of individuals market health policies that NWLC found do not cover maternity care at all. Even if a woman is not currently pregnant, it is unlikely that an insurer will provide or even offer maternity benefits as part of her regular insurance policy."

6. Victim of domestic violence? As the SEIU flyer says, in eight states and Washington DC it is legal for insurance companies to deny health coverage to victims of domestic violence. In fact, when the vote to ensure coverage for individuals in this situation came to the floor of the Senate in 2006 (through a proposed bill by Washington state Senator Patty Murray), ten Republicans voted against it, killing the bill.

7. In 2007, Senate Republicans voted to override regulations requiring insurance companies to cover mammograms in more than 20 states. The year prior, ten Republicans voted against requiring insurance companies to cover mammograms.

Huckabee’s comments about pre-existing conditions were not a serious attempt to solve a problem. If conservatives want to govern then they must show Americans how they would govern. Pre-existing conditions are a problem that affect many Americans. Huckabee doesn’t want to say that we should ignore these people, but neither does he want to develop a system that looks like Romneycare. So he is forced to very quietly and ambiguously argue for a public option. He had better hope that no one wants to discuss the issue and that everyone keeps the focus on how similar Romneycare and Obamacare are.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Really fantastic arguments and facts Pablo.