Repeal and Replace?

The current version of legislation just passed by the House to replace the Affordable Care Act relegates those with pre-existing conditions to high-risk pools. This means that when you become sick or injured you will no longer be guaranteed medical insurance. Your state (specifically, whoever is in control of your state at any given time) will determine your fate---which and how much of your medical expenses to cover and how much to charge you for the insurance that may or may not cover your no-fault-of-your-own illness or injury.

Some of us will live a long life, eventually get sick, and die at an old age. Many of us will develop some type of medical problem or be in an accident that will shorten our lives. Either way, we will all ultimately have a “pre-existing condition.” In other words, we will get sick; or have a child with a congenital health issue; or get pregnant; or experience allergies, dementia, depression, arthritis, or whatever---these are all pre-existing conditions. And at that point, whenever it occurs, we cannot for any reason change or lose our insurance because we will have a pre-existing condition that then would throw us into a “high-risk pool,” which is essentially a euphemism for a leper colony.

In reality, we are all in a high-risk pool just by being alive. Rarely, does anyone stay 100% healthy their entire life. Labeling someone as high risk once they experience a medical problem is a false categorization. It is precisely at that point that they are no longer a risk---they are a known quantity, experiencing dis-ease due to whatever has befallen them or their loved one.

Why would we penalize the individual who has developed a disease by casting them into a group with unknown variables, which will only add to their worries. As citizens in a compassionate society, would we not choose to assist that person when they most need it, rather than complicating their situation? The complications that we should be concerned about are not those that drive up costs to the insurance company, but those that threaten the well being of the patient. For Christians, this translates to taking care of the least of these, as Jesus reminded those who asked him when they saw Jesus suffering but did not help him.

The solution to the financial challenge of all of this is to offer a subsidized government option, like Congress’ health plan, which will attract more healthy, young customers to the insurance market and simultaneously create a more competitive environment to drive down the cost of premiums by private insurers. A public option would allow this, as does Medicaid. Medicare for all is an even a better alternative, but I don’t see that happening any time soon. In either case, the concepts of pre-existing conditions and high risk pools must be repealed and replaced with compassionate strategies and the assurance that we will take care of each other when we get sick or injured.