At the beginning of this week, three GOP senators unveiled their alternative to Obamacare — a set of conservative policies that would essentially dismantle the health law’s core consumer protections, and give insurers an opening to deny coverage to people with pre-existing health conditions. And on Thursday, in an interview with one of the primary architects of the proposal, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), MSNBC host Chuck Todd exposed another consequence of the GOP measure. It would actually serve to raise premiums for vulnerable Americans, like elderly people with debilitating health issues.
The Republican proposal promises to allow younger Americans to pay lower premiums for their health plans, and loosens some of the regulations that prevent insurance companies from setting their rates based on factors like health or gender. Todd pointed out that could ultimately result in older people, particularly those who are dealing with the health consequences of aging, paying much more for their care.
Hatch didn’t dispute that, acknowledging that “somebody has to pay for these things”:
CHUCK TODD: One of the assumed benefits in your new plan would allow for cheaper policies for young folks. At the same time, you would allow insurers to sell insurance at varying rates. So if you allow for a cheaper policy for younger, healthier people, right, this has been among the issues, the translation is you’re going to see — how do you prevent a spike for older Americans who, maybe just by default of genetics, are starting with a lot of health care problems, and because of that, end up getting charged more? How do you prevent that spike in rates for them?
ORRIN HATCH: Well, we have a formula in there that it can’t go beyond a certain position. But the fact of the matter is, somebody has to pay for these things. And the Obamacare bill doesn’t pay for things, they pushed them into — into Medicaid, which is non-functioning and not doing what it should do right now.
The two went on to discuss a 25-year-old unmarried man who will be able to get a cheaper policy under the GOP’s plan, since he won’t be required to purchase one that includes maternity coverage. But Todd pointed out that means a woman who needs that type of gender-specific coverage will ultimately have to pay more for it. “Aren’t you essentially shifting the costs to the health insurance user?” he noted. “Somebody is paying here.”
Republicans have maintained that their alternative to the Affordable Care Act will “reduce health care costs and increase access to affordable, high-quality care.” But doing away with the consumer protections that intend to regulate the insurance market for Americans who are older, sicker, and poorer will ultimately end up encouraging a shift toward requiring those individuals to shoulder a higher portion of their insurance costs.
In 1993, Hatch co-sponsored a much more moderate health reform proposal that would have established a minimum benefits package for American consumers. That measure also included a version of the individual mandate, which Hatch later decried as anunconstitutional policy during the fight to pass Obamacare.