Rep. Broun Op-Ed: Pro & Con: Should Georgia Implement Federal Health Care Reform?
May 17, 2010 -
By Congressman Paul Broun
With states already struggling to balance their budgets, it is unreasonable for the federal government to continue to place unfunded and unconstitutional mandates on states. It’s no wonder at least 21 states, including Georgia, have filed lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the federal government mandating states to provide and individuals to purchase health insurance.
Throughout the health care debate, President Barack Obama’s sales pitch revolved on two main ideas: Health costs would decrease, and insurance companies would no longer be able to refuse coverage to individuals with pre-existing conditions. In theory, the idea appealed to many, but less than two months later, the American people are discovering the devil is in the new health care law’s details.
While tax increases take effect immediately, the majority of the benefits created in the 2,700-page health care law do not kick in until 2014. In an attempt to provide immediate coverage to currently uninsured individuals with pre-existing conditions, lawmakers included a provision that require the states to establish their own high-risk pools, which presumably will allow individuals and businesses to purchase high-cost insurance plans. States were given the option of operating the high-risk pools themselves or allow the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to carry out the program. In addition, the federal government pledged to support the states’ creation of these pools with $5 billion of taxpayer-funded subsidies.
However, states did not have the luxury of time or details to make this decision. Without any specifics as to how these programs would run, they were requested to announce their decision by April 30.
Shortly before this deadline, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) chief actuary, Rick Foster, announced $5 billion would not be enough to fund the high-risk pools through 2014. Foster explained, “We estimate that the creation of a national high-risk insurance pool would result in roughly 375,000 people gaining coverage in 2010, increasing national health spending by $4 billion. By 2011 and 2012 the initial $5 billion in federal funding for this program would be exhausted, resulting in substantial premium increases to sustain the program.”
As a result, 18 states, including Georgia, announced their intention to allow HHS to create and operate their state’s high-risk pool. While HHS has assured governors the programs would be paid for 100 percent by the federal government, aka the American taxpayer, state governors’ skepticism is justified.
It is prudent for states to heed Foster’s warning that the funding will run short, especially considering HHS has provided no details or outlines regarding how these pools will run. Will the federal government pump more money into the program? Will states be held responsible? And will states use significant time and resources to start up a program that eventually could be canceled should the federal $5 billion fund be exhausted?
There is a better way to help the uninsured who have pre-existing conditions obtain the health services they need without the funding and regulatory uncertainty that HHS’ mandate brings.
I am continuing my work with other members of Congress on legislation that would strengthen, expand and create new avenues for affordable health care for sick Americans through high-risk pools and reinsurance mechanisms. As a practicing family physician, I assure you that I will fight to prevent this government takeover of health care from defining the relationship between the doctor and patient. It is never too late to do the right thing.
Online: Atlanta Journal-Constitution