Should We Go Back to High-Risk Pools for the Sick?


Would people with medical problems be better off going back to the old high-risk pools that existed before Obamacare? Some state insurance regulators think so.

At a hearing held by the Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee, insurance regulators from Wisconsin, Iowa and Ohio indicated they may ask for waivers from the Affordable Care Act next year to return to high-risk plans that were replaced with ACA marketplaces.

“Our high-risk pool provided excellent care for the sickest among Wisconsinites,” providing subsidies and allowing them to choose any doctor, Wisconsin Deputy Insurance Commissioner J.P. Wieske said. “Unfortunately Obamacare ended that. That was 20,000 people that were thrown into the marketplace that created additional problems.”

Re-establishing high-risk pools, which were in effect in 35 states prior to the ACA, is part of a Republican plan advanced by House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). Democrats and ACA supporters are critical of the proposal, arguing the high-risk plans were expensive for participants and took too long to get into.

The state regulators, including Democrat Mike Kreidler of Washington, echoed the refrain that states should be given flexibility to come up with ways to reduce high premium increases and shrinking plan choices that are expected to take place in the ACA marketplaces in 2017.

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