Responding to complaints that their bill would cause a "death spiral" in the individual insurance market because it does not include an individual mandate, Senate Republicans have a released a revised version of the bill that include a "fix" that won't fix anything at all.
House Republicans replaced the individual mandate with a financial penalty for those who lose their coverage, but the Senate GOP's replacement is a provision that locks individuals out of the market entirely if they lose coverage for any reason.
The revised legislation released Monday requires insurers to impose a six-month waiting period on those seeking to join plans if they have had a break in coverage lasting two months or more in the previous year. Vox and other outlets over the weekend reported that Senate Republicans were considering the change to their bill. [...]
The House bill, the American Health Care Act, included its own version of a continuous coverage requirement that imposed a 30 percent surcharge on consumers who had not maintained continuous coverage when they sought to enroll in a plan.
This is so preposterous I guffawed in a maniacal manner when I first read it.
This will not compel those who can't afford insurance to buy insurance, it will simply lock them out of the market on a semi-permanent basis. And the GOP bill will also squeeze millions of people out of Medicaid eligibility, meaning there will be many people who previously qualified for Medicaid who will be left to fend for themselves in the individual market with only insufficient and ineffectual tax credits offered to them in exchange for buying insurance they can't afford up front.
What will this mean for insurers? Will they be forced to turn away potential customers? What will it mean for providers? What will it mean for hospitals that are legally required to cover patients who may be temporarily banned from coverage?
If the goal is to encourage healthy people to sign up for coverage, I don't see how this will accomplish that. A six month penalty is not going to encourage someone who did not plan to buy coverage in the next six months in any event.
This will precipitate or hasten a collapse in the individual market, not prevent it.
The bottom line is if you're going to say people should not be able to wait to buy coverage until after they have an accident or become ill, you're saying they deserve to go bankrupt and/or die. But when accounting for other aspects of the GOP's bill such as insurers no longer being required to provide a minimum level of coverage, bankruptcy and death will already be increasingly likely even for those who do have coverage.
Under current law (under Obamacare), Medicaid will cover medical expenses incurred up to 90 days before coverage begins, allowing poor patients to obtain coverage after an emergency. That's also going away in the GOP's bill.