Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pledged Friday that “if the courts strike down Obamacare’s protections for those with pre-existing conditions the Senate would move swiftly to restore them.”
McConnell is lying. Yeah, I know. News flash. Let us review the legislation that Senate Republicans have put forward thus far to “protect” coverage for people with pre-existing conditions. Presumably, that’s what McConnell would reach for in a panic. It’s a sham, with hollow protections.
North Carolina Republican Thom Tillis resurrected a bill earlier this year in response to the advancing of the court case that would overturn the Affordable Care Act and would technically prohibit insurance companies from giving coverage to people because of those conditions, but because it doesn’t included the interrelated provisions of the ACA, is shot full of holes. For example, it doesn’t specify what benefits have to be covered. For example, prescriptions. A company could offer a plan to a person with diabetes, fulfilling the letter of the Republican law, but not cover insulin.
The bill wouldn’t prohibit insurers from charging women more than men. So the pre-existing condition of two X chromosomes won’t technically prevent you from getting insurance; you just might not be able to afford it. For people with serious chronic or acute illnesses, the ACA provides the security of knowing they will never reach a benefit limit—the law prohibits insurance companies from cutting people off when they reach a cap in payouts both annually and for their lifetime. So without it, sure, a patient with breast cancer could get insurance, but she might only get a fraction of the prescribed treatment for it once she hits the limit.
Even the part of the bill that says insurers can’t charge one person more than another “on the basis of any health status-related factor” walks back that guarantee by saying it shouldn’t be read as a restriction on what an employer or individual could be charged for coverage. It doesn’t include the community-rating provisions in the law, which bans insurers from raising premiums based on health status or prior medical claims, gender, where you live, or your profession.
None of that will fly with House Democrats, and they won’t be shy about pointing out that this bill is a sham, that it does not do what Republicans say it does. McConnell knows that very well; he’s just hoping that the Supreme Court will be there to bail him out and not make him actually try to pass something. He knows it’s a political loser.