U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley is throwing his support behind legislation to help set up programs that could make it easier to pay for high-cost health care claims — including ones for people with pre-existing conditions.
Hawley announced on Friday he’s backing Maine Sen. Susan Collins’ bill, which is known as the Premium Reduction Act of 2019. Among other things, it provides federal money to states to establish reinsurance programs to cover high-cost claims.
If a person with sizable health care costs, including pre-existing conditions, files a claim, an insurance company can use the reinsurance plan to help pay for it. A number of states, including Maine, have set up these types of programs.
One of the goals of the legislation is to make insurance companies less reliant on substantial increases in premiums to defray health care costs for people with conditions that require expensive medical care.
“Health care costs in Missouri and around the country are completely out of control,” Hawley said in a statement. “I’m proud to sponsor this legislation to bring down health care costs for families while maintaining our commitment to providing affordable care to those with pre-existing conditions.”
Tim McBride, a health care economist and analyst at Washington University, said the idea that Hawley is supporting is a good one. He noted that it’s endorsed by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.
“So it's basically taking the whole pool and basically saying, ‘We think this is what the cost will be. But what if it's outside that range? Then we can dip into this reinsurance pool,’” McBride said. “And we as analysts think it's a good idea.”
Besides Hawley and Collins, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat, is backing the proposal. He said in a statement that he’s been opposed to repealing the Affordable Care Act because it requires insurance plans to cover people with pre-existing conditions. But he added, “I have never and will never pretend that it’s perfect.”
“That’s why I’ve been working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to come up with bipartisan solutions that will make health care more affordable and more accessible for all Americans,” Manchin said in a statement when the bill was introduced earlier this year.
Making health insurance available for people with pre-existing conditions was a major issue during Hawley’s campaign last year against U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill. McCaskill criticized his decision as attorney general to sign on to a still-pending lawsuit that would undo the Affordable Care Act. During the campaign, Hawley said Congress can step in to pass a law protecting people with pre-existing conditions, even if the ACA is no longer in place.
After he was elected last year, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Hawley met with Collins to discuss her reinsurance legislation and “protecting people with pre-existing conditions.”
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