The Health Care System has a Pre-existing Condition

Published 11/30/10

Pre-existing conditions are a serious, complex matter.  Americans who have been diagnosed with chronic disease or cancer are the consumers we’d expect to face the greatest problems in the health insurance market due to the high costs of their treatments.

Proponents of ObamaCare celebrate the great humanitarian effort to offer better, more reasonable rates to people with pre-existing conditions and to make health insurance more affordable in general to uninsured Americans.  Even those who see the government’s role as a humanitarian one must recognize that the health reform effort cannot be judged on its goals, but must be judged on its outcomes.  From the Wall Street Journal:

Mr. Obama declared at the time that “uninsured Americans who’ve been locked out of the insurance market because of a pre-existing condition will now be able to enroll in a new national insurance pool where they’ll finally be able to purchase quality, affordable health care—some for the very first time in their lives.”

So far that statement accurately describes a single person in North Dakota. Literally, one person has signed up out of 647,000 state residents. Four people have enrolled in West Virginia. Things are better in Minnesota, where Mr. Obama has rescued 15 out of 5.2 million, and also in Indiana—63 people there. HHS did best among the 24.7 million Texans. Thanks to ObamaCare, 393 of them are now insured.

In grand total, the WSJ reports, 8,011 have taken advantage of this high-risk pool.

That so few have grabbed this lifeline suggests that the reality of pre-existing conditions isn’t nearly as grim as the President continues to claim. A shelf of academic research says the same thing, by the way.

But HHS won’t take this for an answer, so this week it said it will cut premiums by 20% and expand benefits for this program in 2011 to encourage more people to enroll. In other words, HHS plans to make its cut-rate insurance even cheaper (and thus more expensive for taxpayers) so it can avoid having to admit that the President’s claims about a nation of the indigent sick denied insurance were false. This wouldn’t be the first time that one government failure begat another.

I would argue that ObamaCare seeks to solve the pre-existing condition puzzle within the same, broken system we saw before.  The system itself was sick.  If our goal is to reach those truly in need with real reform, we must focus on lowering costs for everyone – not shifting them from one group (the very sick) to another (the taxpayers).  ObamaCare is an effort to treat the symptoms, not the root causes of the health industry’s problems.

Whenever I get a sinus infection, my doctor usually gives me two prescriptions: one for some medicine to alleviate my symptoms, and another to target the actual bacteria (the antibiotic).  Without the latter, I’d be stuck treating my symptoms and waiting for the actual infection to get better – or to get worse.  The reason so few people are helped by ObamaCare’s high risk pool is because it’s just trying to treat the symptoms (and not doing a very good job of it either).  Costs for many Americans are still high, and going higher.

For some maladies there is no cure, but there is a way to heal our health system.  It starts with repeal of the ObamaCare legislation, and it’s followed by targeting the real cause of the high costs.


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