Nature and politics abhor a vacuum. In this election the Republicans left one for the Democrats to fill, and fill it they did. When Democrats accused Republicans of gutting the so-called pre-existing condition protections in Obamacare. Republicans offered no push-back to the attack. Instead they parroted that they are for pre-existing protections too. Pre-election polling found that health care was the top issue in the recently concluded campaign. This was especially true of white suburban women, a group Republicans lost by 20 points. Democrats rode this issue to regain control of the House for the first time since 2010.
A pre-existing condition means someone is already sick. To insure is to mitigate against risk – in the case of health care, an expensive illness or accident. By analogy, consider homeowners insurance. If you have a roof that’s about to collapse and you try to buy homeowners insurance, you’re out of luck. Insurers won’t sell you a policy because they know they’ll lose money. That’s a pre-existing condition, a sure loser for an insurance company. Now let’s say the government mandates that insurance companies must issue a homeowners policy to insure all homes in any condition. What will happen? The cost of insurance and everything associated with it will skyrocket for everyone.
With health insurance, we don’t have to guess what might happen if insurers are forced to issue policies to already sick individuals, because it has happened under Obamacare. The main reason for the now-defunct individual mandate, which forced young and healthy people to buy health insurance, was to defray the cost of insuring the sick. The effect of these so-called protections has been disastrous. Insurance companies in the Obamacare exchanges have declined in number every year, and yet again in 2018. Remember the promise that each family would save $2500 in healthcare premiums? According to Health and Human Services (HHS), premiums have doubled since 2013. Doubled. In 2018, costs have risen by 19% for expensive plans and 32% for the cheapest plans. Inflation for all other goods and services is only 2%.
When Democrats attacked, Republicans ran for the tall grass. They allowed Democrats to tout the benefits of pre-existing conditions protection without making them own the terrible price that these protections cost average people. Republicans should have pivoted and attacked, accusing Democrats of wanting to deprive people of healthcare coverage by making health insurance unaffordable. Republicans should have asked: Why should Democrats have any credibility on health care given how they lied to pass it, then badly bungled it? These are arguments that college-educated suburban women would have understood. These arguments might have saved the House. But Republicans would have needed the courage to fight and make a case to a public hungry for leadership.
Michael A.Morrongiello, Ph. D.