Spicer: ‘Impossible’ To Know Health Bill Cost For Pre-Existing Condition Coverage

White House Press secretary Sean Spicer gestures while speaking to the media during the daily briefing in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, Friday, March 24, 2017. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

White House press secretary Sean Spicer dismissed an analysis that found premiums for some people with pre-existing conditions would skyrocket under Republicans’ amended health care bill, saying it was “impossible” to know the cost to cover affected individuals.

The AARP’s Public Policy Institute wrote Thursday that “We project that if states return to pre-ACA high-risk pools in 2019, as proposed, high-risk pool premiums for people with pre-existing conditions could be as high as $25,700 annually.”

An amendment to the American Health Care Act would allow states to eliminate Obamacare’s price protections for individuals with pre-existing conditions, if the states establish high-risk pools for those individuals in their place. Critics say those pools make insurance unsustainably expensive for sick people. On Wednesday, Spicer announced the White House’s support for another amendment from Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), which would invest $8 billion in the pools over five years.

Asked if that would be enough money to sufficiently supplement the pools, Spicer said it was impossible to know.

“There are so many variables that are unknown that to make an analysis of that level of precision seems almost impossible,” Spicer said, noting that it was impossible to know which states would seek the exemption, nor how many individuals with pre-existing conditions would go without care for more than 63 days, at which point insurance companies could charge higher prices.

He added later: “For someone to know how many people that is, what number of states are going to receive a waiver, ask for it and receive a waiver, is literally impossible at this point. So to do an analysis of any level of factual basis would be literally not possible.”

The AARP explains on its website that it simply divided total premium revenue from high-risk pools in 2010 by the number of individuals enrolled in those pools, and then adjusted for inflation and other factors to 2019, when the AHCA would take effect. It did not address which states would opt to eliminate the Obamacare rule, instead measuring costs in high-risk pools themselves. The analysis was published before the proposed $8 billion supplement was announced.

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office still hasn’t released an analysis on the Republicans’ amended proposal, though its analysis of the initial proposal found that 24 million more people would be uninsured by 2026 versus the status quo were it to be implemented.

One reporter asked Spicer if Republicans wouldn’t wait for a new analysis.

“The vote is going to happen, as I’ve said like eight times now, when the speaker and the majority leader and the majority whip want to,” he replied. “Our job is to work as hard as we can to work with members of Congress who want to see the health care system improved. That’s what we’re doing, that’s what we’ve done. And so it will be up to the House leadership to decide when to vote. 

Earlier on Wednesday, the White House budget director projected a vote on health care could occur as early as Saturday.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Matt Shuham is a news writer for TPM. He was previously assistant editor of The National Memo and managing editor of the Harvard Political Review. He is available by email at mshuham@talkingpointsmemo.com and on Twitter @mattshuham.
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