Hubert H. Humphrey Building, Washington, D.C. photo © Chimay Bleue
On November 1, 1977 the first federal building to be dedicated to a living person was named after former vice president, Hubert H. Humphrey. That building currently serves as the headquarters for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In his dedication speech, Humphrey, who was terminally ill with cancer stated, “It was once said that the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life -- the sick, the needy, and the handicapped.” 75 days later Hubert H. Humphrey succumbed to bladder cancer.
I’m old enough to remember Hubert Humphrey. I’m also old enough to remember that approximately a month ago due to a shortage of votes, Paul Ryan pulled the AHCA bill, a disastrous attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare. Well, it appears the Republicans are back at it and this time with a vengeance. Determined to dismantle the Affordable Care Act brick by brick, Republicans in the house are now looking to undermine one of the act’s keystone components, namely protections for pre-existing conditions, as early as next week. Congress wants to include an amendment that would allow insurers to charge higher rates based on a person’s health status. It’s being reported that under the new plan, “states would be able to waive protections for pre-existing conditions for any reason, as long as they set up a high-risk pool or participated in a federal risk-sharing program”. The result? For those who need it most, healthcare would become virtually out of reach monetarily. Under current law (the ACA), insurers can use standard age rating curves to vary premiums but cannot do so based on health status. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services or CMS has done detailed analysis of projected premium surcharges if pre-existing condition protections are removed. I should warn you-it’s not a pretty picture.
The current occupant of the Hubert H. Humphrey Building, HHS Secretary Tom Price, said in an interview on Tuesday, that states, rather than the federal government, should have power over our healthcare. "States are much more flexible, much more nimble to be able to create and modify a system that would work best for their constituents," he said. What Price omitted to mention was that with the Trump Administration’s plan to slash billions from HHS, states will be hard pressed for funds. Perhaps it’s time for Secretary Price and his friends in Washington to remember something - the words of his building’s namesake.
Click here to read the CMS analysis and to view a breakdown of pre-existing condition surcharges by state.
Premium surcharges if pre-existing condition protections are repealed
Estimates for a 40-year-old individual with selected health conditions in 2026, including effect of federal invisible risk-sharing program
posted by Amy Levengood