High‐​Risk Pools Ease Transition

This article appeared on USA Today on March 5, 2017.
  • Related Content

High‐​risk pools can help transition to a system that makes high‐​quality medical care affordable and secure for patients with high‐​cost conditions. Obamacare is utterly failing in this regard. And while congressional Republicans are eyeing state‐​run high‐​risk pools, their approach is also woefully inadequate.

Government is not the solution to the problem of pre‐​existing conditions. Government is the problem.

Congress bestows favorable tax treatment on employer‐​sponsored health insurance, a type of coverage that disappears for no good reason when workers change jobs, lose jobs or retire; for kids when they turn 18 or 26; and for spouses following a divorce or the worker’s death. Only government could push 160 million Americans into health insurance that’s as reliable as a faulty parachute.

Too often, employer coverage disappears after workers or their loved ones develop expensive medical conditions. Government thus turns what would be insured conditions into pre‐​existing conditions.

Fixing this problem requires repealing Obamacare and replacing it with expanded health savings accounts. Workers could control the $700 billion employers spend on health benefits each year, using it to buy secure, portable coverage.

During the transition, high‐​risk pools could subsidize those with uninsurable pre‐​existing conditions. The result would be fewer patients falling through the cracks.

Obamacare’s “solution” is to force insurers to cover pre‐​existing conditions, which will leave many sick and healthy patients alike uninsured. Obamacare is in a “death spiral,” according to Princeton economist Uwe Reinhardt. Some 43,000 Tennesseans may have no way to buy coverage in 2018.

Republicans are planning to subsidize pre‐​existing conditions in separate high‐​risk pools. But since their evolving plan would neither fully repeal Obamacare nor let workers control that $700 billion, it won’t make coverage more secure for the sick. No amount of government Band‐​Aids will stop the bleeding from this government‐​inflicted wound.