Words fail, mandate edition

I swear, I’m not picking on Senator Santorum. But I can’t let this one go by without posting. Evidently, he was recently speaking in New Hampshire, and said:

“There’s a reason that people who don’t have health insurance right now, who want to sign up for health insurance are stopped from getting insurance on a preexisting condition,” Santorum said. “So if you have cancer, and you’re not insured…then you want to get health insurance, right? Because it’s really expensive [to get cancer treatment]. Imagine if the government said you can get health insurance, and the insurance company can’t deny you because you have cancer.” Santorum asked the class if anyone disagreed with that, and one student spoke up: “Wouldn’t that drive the insurance companies out of business?”

“If you don’t have to have insurance until you’re sick,” Santorum explained, “why buy insurance?… How much would insurance be if only people who needed insurance bought it? The whole point of insurance is: healthy people buy it, sick people buy it, and those who are healthy support those who are sick…. But if insurance is only sick people buy it, well guess what’s going to be the cost of insurance. That’s why there’s a preexisting-condition clause.”

Um… what? Now I recognize that it’s possible that this was taken out of context, and it’s possible that Senator Santorum meant something else, but he seems to be making an argument that right now, people with pre-existing conditions can’t get insurance. So we need a pre-existing condition clause. And it seems that he’s then saying that if you have a pre-existing condition clause you can potentially have an adverse selection/free rider problem. So we need an individual mandate.

And then you have the Affordable Care Act. Which part does he want to repeal?

UPDATE: A couple of you have asked me if it’s possible that Senator Santorum is saying that getting rid of pre-existing condition refusals is what’s going to create adverse selection. Based upon his former speeches, I get the sense that he accepts that insurance costs more for sick people, and that he feels that people should have thought ahead and bought insurance before they got sick. But if that’s the case, then he’s offering no solution for people who lose their insurance after they get sick. Maybe they got laid off. It happens, especially when you’re really sick.  They are, of course, unable to get policies even though they’ve been responsible citizens.

Moreover, as I said in the comments, that second paragraph seems awfully close to a defense of the individual mandate.

UPDATE 2: Another commenter says that he thinks Senator Santorum is worried that covering only sick people would bankrupt private insurance companies. Yes. That’s why the ACA has the individual mandate. Nevertheless, you’ve almost convinced me that Senator Santorum wasn’t defending the ACA (although if I was running against him, I can totally see you you could put this in an ad and say he was). You have almost convinced me that what he’s saying is that we should continue to allow insurance companies to tell people who have pre-existing conditions (there are many tens of millions of them) that they either can’t have insurance, or that it should be very expensive. If that’s the case, I’d like to hear what Senator Santorum thinks people who have pre-existing conditions, but who have been fired recently, should do to regain insurance. I’d like to know what he would tell young adults with pre-existing conditions who are leaving their parents’ plans and unable to get their own should do.

It’s entirely possible to be a good and responsible citizen and get screwed in the current health insurance market we have. What do we do for those people?


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