Throwing Money At a Problem You Don’t Want To Solve

A good measure of the perverse thinking behind contemporary conservative health care policy is the legislation being promoted by the House GOP leadership that would pour four billion dollars into a temporary “high-risk insurance” pool set up under Obamacare. It’s temporary because it was intended to serve as a stopgap measure until Obamacare’s provision banning denial of health insurance on grounds of pre-existing conditions kicks in at the beginning of 2014. Republicans don’t want it to be temporary, because they intend to repeal the pre-existing condition ban, and let insurance companies discriminate to their hearts’ content, consigning the victims permanently to the ghetto of high-risk pools.

Anyone who’s ever dealt with the state-run high-risk pools set up under the 1996 HIPAA legislation knows they typically offer crappy insurance at exorbitant rates. Best I can tell, the federal pool established by Obamacare is marginally better, but still pretty bad from the point of view of the kind of people–often the unemployed and the self-employed–that must rely on individual policies that just aren’t available elsewhere at any price.

As a symbol of the GOP’s enormous compassion, propping up and extending the high-risk pool is laughably weak, and so it’s amusing that even this offer of a band-aid has aroused the wrath of the Club for Growth, which is opposing the funding because it’s “too expensive” and usurps the role of the states (you know, the states that had to be dragged into setting up these pools by the federal government via HIPAA).

Anyone in search of a health care policy debate within the congressional Republican Party can find one here, between those favoring inadequate money to “address” a problem they refuse to solve, and those saying to hell with it.

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works—and how to make it work better. Fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

Yes, I’ll make a donation

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.