Rep. Gary Palmer: There is a Republican plan to cover pre-existing conditions and the House already passed it
Here is a fact that Democrats are desperately trying to keep from the public: Not only do Republicans support providing health insurance coverage for those with preexisting conditions, but Republicans in the House actually passed legislation that did just that.
The American Health Care Act included an amendment that Rep. David Schweikert (R-AZ) and I introduced. It ensured that anyone with a preexisting condition could purchase health insurance. The Palmer-Schweikert amendment established a risk-sharing plan that allowed any individual with a preexisting condition to purchase insurance at the same price as a healthy individual. This was not an unproven idea — in fact, the plan was modeled after a successful state-level program.
Instead of billions of dollars in bailouts for health insurance companies, the Republican plan was funded by having the majority of the premiums paid by those with preexisting conditions transferred into a fund. This represents an alternative approach to Obamacare’s guaranteed-issue provision, which priced everyone as sick, resulting in far more expensive premiums.
Our amendment put the money in a risk-sharing plan that targeted assistance to cover those with preexisting conditions, but also required the insurers to have some skin in the game. The result was more affordable premiums for all.
By setting up this arrangement, the Republican plan not only guaranteed coverage to people with preexisting conditions, it reduced premiums for everyone else in every age group. According to an analysis by Milliman, one of the nation’s top independent actuarial firms, the Republican risk-sharing plan would have provided prompt assistance for people with high-cost claims, lowered premium costs by 12-31 percent, and increased the number of people with health insurance by up to 2.2 million.
The Republican bill with this amendment passed the House on May 4, 2017 without a single Democrat vote in favor. Even though the ACHA stalled in the Senate, the risk-sharing plan will be part of a legislative package that I, along with others, intend to reintroduce in the next Congress along with provisions that will be a huge step toward repairing and restoring health care in America.
The legislation will allow for the formation of Association Health Plans that help small businesses save money, and allow for the sale of short-term health insurance policies that can help the uninsured. The Trump administration has issued guidelines that allow for both. Our bill would protect these new options.
As a result of Obamacare, health insurance premiums more than doubled and the mandates forced small businesses to cut employees’ hours, lay people off, and stop hiring. Currently, only about 56 percent of small businesses can afford to offer health insurance. But the new guidelines allow for individuals and small businesses to qualify for these lower-cost association health plans — making affordable health insurance available to millions of workers.
Empowering people to purchase short-term health insurance will make coverage available to millions of Americans who are currently uninsured. Short-term plans would allow individuals to purchase one-year plans that are renewable for up to three years. These plans are 50 – 80 percent less expensive.
Republicans are advocating for these options to empower the American people, but Democrats are once again misleading the American public about healthcare. During the debate over Obamacare, they said we could keep our doctors if we liked them. That was a lie for millions of Americans. They promised premiums would be reduced by an average of $2,500 per family per year, but premiums more than doubled for tens of millions of people. They said that over 20 million people would be covered by government exchanges, but it was less than half that number — and insurance companies dropped coverage in many states.
Now, the Democrats are calling for government-run healthcare under the guise of “Medicare for All.” What they want is a Canadian-style health system. But in Canada, the average wait time to see a doctor in metropolitan areas is over 18 weeks, and it’s over 31 weeks in rural areas. A study by the Fraser Institute of Canada reported that from 1993 to 2009, an estimated 25,000 to 63,000 Canadian women died while waiting for treatment.
By contrast, the Republicans are on record with a sensible plan to cover preexisting conditions, a plan that will help individuals get the health insurance they need at prices they can afford, and which allows small businesses to provide health insurance coverage to their employees.
The difference between the Republican plan and the Democrat’s plan is that our plan will offer Americans more options and make health insurance affordable again.
Gary Palmer, a Republican, represents Alabama in the U.S. House of Representatives.