Saturday, August 15, 2009

The big half-truth

President Obama held a town hall meeting in Grand Junction, Colorado, today and repeated that under his health care reform plan, insurance companies will not be allowed to deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions or charge them higher rates than other customers.

For just a moment, pretend you are the CEO of a health insurance company.

How long do you suppose you could stay in business if people had the right -- guaranteed by law -- to buy a health insurance policy only after they got sick, and for the same rate that you charge people who are not sick?

Can you buy a fire insurance policy after the house burns down? Can you buy car insurance to pay for collision damage that has already happened?

No, you can't.

And that's the part of the health care reform proposal that President Obama isn't telling you. In order to prevent companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, everyone will be required by law to buy health insurance and keep it in force continuously.

Actually, he is telling you, but it's not the first thing he mentions, or the second. It's pretty far down in the small print. In Grand Junction on Saturday, it was one hour and three minutes into a town hall meeting that ran one hour and ten minutes:

"If we don't have everybody covered," President Obama told the audience, "we can't construct a system that prevents insurance companies from discriminating against pre-existing conditions. I hope everybody understands that. We can't tell insurers to take everybody if, on the other hand, you've got a whole bunch of people who are healthy and young and choose not to get insurance at all. Because what ends up happening is then insurance companies are just going to take the people when they get sick. Somebody won't buy insurance until they find out that they're sick, then they go into the insurance office and say 'give me insurance, so I can go pay my bill,' an insurance company would lose money pretty quick that way. So if we're going to eliminate the pre-existing conditions problem, we've got to also have the coverage problem, and that's why this is going to have to be phased in over a number of years."

He's only owned General Motors for a month and already he's a car salesman.

Copyright 2009