Whitman, pre-existing conditions and the health insurance mandate

March 31, 2010

Meg Whitman might know something about online auctions and business management. But she probably ought to brush up on her understanding of the way health insurance works.

At a campaign appearance in Redondo Beach Tuesday, Whitman drew loud and sustained applause by calling for the repeal of the new federal health reform law. She even suggested she would “force” the state attorney general to join a states’ lawsuit against the plan, though she later conceded that she could actually order an independently elected attorney general to do anything.

Whitman did say there was at least one part of the new law she likes. It’s the same part nearly everyone loves: a prohibition on insurance companies denying you coverage if you have a pre-existing medical condition.

But Whitman, of course, opposes the individual mandate — the requirement that everyone carry coverage.

And as just about any health economist will tell you, you really can’t have one without the other.

If anyone can get insurance, any time, regardless of their health condition, there would be a huge economic incentive to avoid coverage until you needed it. Why pay now when you can get coverage later? It would be like letting people buy car insurance after they’ve already been in a wreck. In health insurance, that kind of incentive would skew the pool of the insured toward the sick and the injured. That would drive up the cost of coverage, pushing still more healthy people out of the pool. And so on.

The fix for this is to require everyone to have insurance, with subsidies for those who can’t afford it. That way everyone — the healthy and the sick — is in the pool, and you spread the risk broadly.

Whitman’s solution has been tried in several states. And it usually leads to even higher insurance premiums than we have now, while doing little to broaden access to care.

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One Response to Whitman, pre-existing conditions and the health insurance mandate

  1. tahoevalleylines

    April 3, 2010 at 1:15 pm

    Intellectual dishonesty is a glaring fault, Meg old girl…

    Of course be for pre-existing condition coverage, and against mandate coverage for all; what better double whammy could you think of to say you were for something before you were against some (the same) thing. Guarantee the pool concept is not part of the actuarial requisites. Failure guaranteed. Like Carly, send all the problematic jobs offshore, lick off the cream, and move on. So catty!

    It continues to amaze, the way the status quo wannabes follow the script in J H Kunstler’s “The Long Emergency”. Stop smirking, Jerry B. I remember walking home from work at DWR through the alley behind the Governor’s Mansion and hearing you shooting baskets. What have you got to deal with the Energy Emergency, what comprehensive program to deal holistically with the LIST, the perfect storm rolling our way? Gotta fix the economy too, or health care is just a wisp, last puff of smoke from the dissembling Union of States.

    And Mr. Poizner. Saving the big car from caving down the bank. What symbolism. Ready to talk about the car and health care costs? Military (oil security) overhead, accident costs, air quality impacts? All three of you wannabe gubernators better bring energy upheaval and transportation policy into the calculus of Health Care. Health care is the topic here, but “mandates” are a smoke screen… only one part of the melting iceberg…

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