Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Democrats Ask GAO to Study the Individual Health Insurance Market--They Are Really Trying to Set Up McCain and Cast Doubt on His Health Reform Plan

There is an old salesman's axiom, "Don't ever ask a question you don't already know the answer to."

Key House Democrats have asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to take a look at the current state of the individual health insurance market. They also want the GAO to review the operation of the state high risk pools designed to provide a safety net for those who can't get coverage in the private market.

Democratic House Committee Chairmen Dingell, Waxman, and Pallone told the GAO, "The individual market for health insurance coverage is seriously flawed. Many people who need insurance and apply for it are denied coverage in the individual market or are offered insurance coverage that turns out to be inadequate or it is too expensive or both."

What's really going on here is that John McCain is offering a standard Republican prescription for health care reform--which includes the rebuilding of the health insurance market on an individual platform that would emphasize personal responsibility, consumer choice, individual ownership and portability of coverage. In short, McCain and the Republicans want to revitalize the individual health insurance market--often by deregulating it.

The Democratic response to that will be that McCain and the Republicans just want to throw you to the market wolves--an individual health insurance market that gives the best prices to the young and healthy and sends the sick off to government-run risk pools that fall way short of giving people decent coverage.

The problem for McCain is that is in fact how the individual health insurance market works today. The Republican nominee is going to have to tell the voters how his reinvigorated individual health insurance market will work better than that. So, far he is short on the details.

The Democrats are about to get themselves a report that will condemn the operation of the individual market and give the Democratic candidate for President a lot of ammunition against McCain.

Senator McCain would do well to close the loop on his proposal and tell us how the sicker and older will get a good health insurance policy in his new system.
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