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Democrats consider dropping insurance ban on pre-existing conditions

By John Byrne
Monday, January 25, 2010 10:43 EDT
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Among the casualties of President Barack Obama’s healthcare agenda may be those who suffer from pre-existing medical conditions and can’t get insurance.

Thought the ban on denying health insurance coverage for pre-existing conditions was going the way of the dodo? Not so fast.

An astute blogger noted that the new proposals floated by Democrats in the wake of the massive health care bill’s collapse is a provision that would bar denying coverage for those with pre-existing conditions — but only if they were under 19. “Did someone just chuck pre-existing conditions overboard?” he wrote.

Among the measures Democrats are considering, the New York Times noted Friday, “Insurers could not deny coverage to children under the age of 19 on account of pre-existing medical conditions.”

“The only reason to specify that children under the age of 19 won’t be denied coverage is because you plan on letting everyone 19 and over BE denied coverage for pre-existing conditions,” blogger John Aravosis replied.

The liberal blogger also discovered a carefully worded description of what may be Obama’s health care fallback plan in an editorial penned for the Washington Post on Sunday by former Obama campaign manager Dan Plouffe.

“If we do pass it, dozens of protections and benefits take effect this year,” Plouffe wrote. “Parents won’t have to worry their children will be denied coverage just because they have a preexisting condition. Workers won’t have to worry that their coverage will be dropped because they get sick. Seniors will feel relief from prescription costs. Only if the plan becomes law will the American people see that all the scary things Sarah Palin and others have predicted — such as the so-called death panels — were baseless.”

Aravosis notes that Plouffe has again highlighted plans to jettison pre-existing conditions — but only for children.

“Their children?” he wrote. “The original promise – even the bad Senate bill – protects everyone, of any age, from being denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions. Now it’s just children?”

Democrats haven’t firmly coalesced around any plan, so details remain up in the air. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) office did not immediately return a request for comment from Raw Story.

If the Democrats were to back away from a fullscale ban on pre-existing conditions, liberals are sure to question President Barack Obama, who included a ban at the top of his change.gov website’s health care agenda prior to taking office.

“Require insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions so all Americans regardless of their health status or history can get comprehensive benefits at fair and stable premiums,” the then-president-elect’s website said.

The challenge for Democrats: a ban on denying coverage for those with pre-existing conditions went hand-in-hand with a requirement that all Americans carry insurance. Insurance companies conceded that they would accept all patients, regardless of health history, but only if everyone was required to have insurance, which would spread the cost of insuring the sick across a wider pool. Without an insurance mandate, a pre-existing ban would mean that premiums would almost certainly rise.

Liberal critics of the Senate Democratic healthcare bill — which now appears dead — argued that even with a pre-existing ban, a provision that allowed insurance companies to charge older patients three times as much as younger consumers effectively undermined attempts to level the insurance playing field.

ThinkProgress, the blog of the progressive Center for American Progress, notes that insurers spent at least $38 million in lobbying on the health care bill in 2009.

 
 
 
 
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