We’ve all heard it before — the age-old saying “Better late than never.” Well, get ready to hear it again, this time from Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, regarding the creation of high-risk pools under Obamacare.
The pools were supposed to provide coverage for individuals who cannot get health insurance due to chronic illness. Obamacare slated the establishment of the pools to occur no later than 90 days after the legislation passed on March 23. This past Monday marked day 90, and the pools remain nowhere to be found.
Covering the uninsured and those who need it most was advertised as one of the top priorities for the congressional majority’s health care agenda, so it’s hard to understand how Secretary Sebelius could have overlooked such an important deadline. After all, it’s her job to implement Obamacare.
It gets worse. Not only has the secretary failed to meet the high-risk pool deadline, but earlier this week the Congressional Budget Office found that the pools will be underfunded by $5 billion to $10 billion. This blunder could result in 500,000 individuals with pre-existing conditions not receiving the coverage they were promised.
According to the White House, as many as 12 million people are currently denied coverage due to pre-existing conditions. In its current design, the poorly-designed federal high-risk pool program will provide coverage to just a small fraction of these people. Richard Foster, Medicare’s chief actuary, claims it will be able to do so for only one or two years before exhausting its allocated funding. Armed with this information, at least 19 states are declining these new high-risk pools.
These mammoth mistakes have not gone unnoticed. Tuesday, Sen. Michael Enzi (R-WY) and 30 other Republicans sent a letter to Secretary Sebelius reminding her of the missed deadline.
The senators also had a few questions for the Secretary: When will the money for these high-risk pools be distributed to participating states? When will funding be provided for the 19 states that have refused to participate in the federal program? And how many individuals will covered by these pools each year?
Sebelius was asked to respond by June 30, but it’s unlikely she will have any more luck in meeting this deadline than she did the previous one. More likely, she will follow the “better late than never” mantra. And all the while, it’s becomes more and more clear that Americans would have been better off had Obamacare never passed.
John Scot Overbey is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at the Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: http://www.heritage.org/about/departments/ylp.cfm