The House is expected to hold yet another symbolic vote this week on a bill to neuter the
The measure (HR 2009) would bar the
The problem with this approach -- beyond the fact that the bill would be dead on arrival in the Senate -- is that it would leave intact the requirement that insurers offer coverage to all applicants without regard to their medical histories. Insurers would also be barred from charging sicker or riskier customers higher premiums than healthy ones, and would be limited in the surcharges they could impose on older applicants and smokers.
The point of these provisions is to make insurance more available and affordable to Americans with preexisting conditions and other insurance red flags. As a consequence, though, insurers will have to take on more risk and distribute it more evenly among their customers.
As I noted in a recent post, this approach won't work unless younger, healthier people are in the risk pool too. And without penalties for violating the individual mandate, there's little to stop healthier adults from eschewing coverage until they need treatment. Insurers would be left covering a progressively sicker, riskier group, causing premiums to spiral upward and making coverage unaffordable to more families. That would be a terrible outcome.
Some critics say the penalties in the law are too small to persuade "young invincibles" to comply, setting the stage for a rapid rise in premiums. HR 2009, though, would guarantee that premiums would rise. That's not principled opposition, it's sabotage. And the victims would be not just the Americans who need individual insurance policies but also taxpayers -- they're the ones who'd have to pay for larger premium subsidies for the poor and working poor.
(And please, don't argue that HR 2009 would stop the IRS from looking at your medical records. The 2010 law doesn't give the agency any authority to do so.)
The same could be said for the misguided efforts to block funding for the law. As noted by Sen.
Granted, many opponents of the law consider it to be such bad policy, any step that hastens its demise is worth taking, regardless of the cost to their constituents in the short term. I get that. And aside from a handful of Republican lawmakers who seem to believe they have enough leverage to force a repeal, most of those supporting measures like HR 2009 surely recognize that they're just scoring political points. Their focus isn't really on stopping Obamacare from going into full effect Jan. 1, it's on winning more seats in November 2014.