As a follow-up to an earlier post, my Kaiser Health News high-risk pools piece is now up. Yeah the pre-existing condition insurance plans are problematic, embarrassingly under-funded stop-gap measures. Their inherent complexities create many administrative challenges and glitches. Yet this effort is taking more than its share of cheap shots, too.
I think a key passage is here:
Conservative health policy expert John Goodman presents one of the toughest critiques. Noting the high-risk pools’ low initial enrollment, he concludes:
“We now know how many people have the problem most often cited as the reason for last year’s health overhaul legislation. Answer: 8,000.
No, that’s not a misprint. Out of 310 million Americans, only 8,000 people have the problem given as the principal reason for spending almost $1 trillion, creating more than 150 regulatory agencies and causing perhaps 150 million or more people to change the coverage they now have.”
Leaving aside that “150 million or more” number, I’m puzzled that Goodman would take low initial enrollment as a sign that problems of the medically uninsured were “hyped and exaggerated from the get go.”
My own work and the work of others documents that a significant number of Americans face the dual challenge of uninsurance and serious illness. For example, data from the 2005-2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (the most recent complete data available when this research was done) indicate that 440,000 uninsured Americans have been diagnosed with strokes. Almost 1.3 million have a history of cancer. More than 500,000 were diagnosed with congestive heart failure. In many cases, such conditions pose obvious obstacles to obtaining affordable health insurance coverage.
Several million other Americans who successfully obtain health coverage through the individual and small-group markets report they experience higher premiums, coverage denials and personal economic hardship related to their own or a loved-one’s pre-existing condition. Then there are the hundreds of thousands of Americans deemed sufficiently ill or injured to qualify for federal disability benefits, yet who are currently uninsured during the two-year waiting period for Medicare coverage.
This program’s trials and tribulations do not provide good arguments for cutting its funding or for lowering our sights in health reform. Quite the opposite, in fact.