I grew up in Huntington Beach. My parents still live in Rep. Dana Rohrabacher’s district. Last weekend, my mom and I talked about Rohrabacher’s position on pre-existing condition coverage. Voters who care about their health coverage – especially including voters on Medicare – should know Rohrabacher’s position on pre-existing conditions. It’s pretty darn strange.
Rohrabacher claims he wants to protect people with pre-existing conditions. Many Republicans say this, while at the same time voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which extends such protections to those who need it most. Rohrabacher has done exactly the same. But he also has a plan that he proposed in 2017 – a safety net, he claims, for the 52 million Americans who have one or more health conditions, like asthma or diabetes, that, but for federal protections in Affordable Care Act and elsewhere, render them uninsurable.
The 2017 plan would hopelessly complicate health insurance for those who needed to use Rohrabacher’s plan. It would add literally trillions of dollars per year to Medicare’s costs by making Medicare responsible for covering pre-existing conditions. And it would get the government into everyone’s health care business.
First, Rohrabacher would have the federal government “verify” each and every American’s pre-existing conditions. He didn’t specify what he meant, or how it would happen. Would the government sift through the health care records of over 328 million Americans? Would it subject all Americans to a battery of medical testing? Rohrabacher didn’t say, presumably in the spirit of keeping it simple. But it sure takes the notion of “government probe” to a whole new level.
Then, once the federal government had finished this task and catalogued the resulting data, Medicare – yes, the health care program for our seniors, the one that’s under enormous financial pressure under a deluge of aging Baby Boomers – would become responsible for paying for health care pertaining to all Americans’ pre-existing conditions…as long as the Americans in question maintained private insurance for their non pre-existing health care needs. That’s right: Medicare Sort-of for All. Again, Rohrabacher didn’t specify how this would happen.
He did, however, say that the prodigious expenses for this health care would come out of general federal revenues. Given that Americans spend over $3.3 trillion per year on health care, and that 90% of our health care costs are spent on chronic and mental health conditions (most of which would be considered pre-existing conditions under just about any definition), Medicare would become responsible for some truly mind-boggling expenses. They would, in fact, rival the estimated $32.6 trillion that Bernie Sanders’ “Medicare for All” plan would cost. The difference is that, under Rohrabacher’s plan, everyone would also still have to pay for private health insurance.
It is literally one of the most bizarre and costly health policy proposals I’ve seen in nearly 20 years of studying these issues.
Recently, though, Republicans, including Rohrabacher, have been really worried about how they look on health care. Thus, Rohrabacher just signed on to a brand new Republican bill that would largely retain the Affordable Care Act’s pre-existing condition protections (while at the same time omitting its coverage and other protections). Never mind the multiple votes Rohrabacher has taken over the years to kill these very protections. If you think the bill will move forward if Rohrabacher wins and the Republicans maintain control of the House, I’ve got some beachfront property in Anaheim to sell you.
Before you vote next week, consider whether Rohrabacher is really the person you want deciding important questions of pre-existing coverage and Medicare on your behalf.
Laura Hermer, JD LLM is a professor of law at Mitchell Hamline School of Law in St. Paul, Minn with a focus on the law and policy of health insurance.
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