High Risk a Bigger Risk under McCain

On September 30, Governor Schwarzenegger, who supports John McCain for president, vetoed AB2, a measure to help shore up California’s high risk pool—even though high risk pools are a key concept in John McCain’s health proposal.

California’s high risk pool serves about between 7,000 and 9,000 people, a small fraction of the medically uninsurable population under the current system. Academic experts tell us that 3%-5% of the under-65 population is uninsurable while insurance company actuaries say the right range is more like 7%-10%. California currently has 2-2.5 million people in the individual market so that means that one rough estimate of the number of uninsurable Californians would be 200,000-300,000 people, literally twenty or thirty times as many as currently get coverage through California’s high risk pool, MRMIP.

We know the McCain plan would increase the number of people in the individual market substantially. The new estimates by the Economic Policy Institute say that McCain plan would double the number of people in the individual market in California, adding 2.5 million people. That means that the number of uninsurable Californians would climb to a half million or more. Where on earth are we going to get the money to subsidize coverage for these Californians? Budget deficit. Fiscal meltdown. Stock market tanking. We can barely find the money to help 9,000 medically uninsurable Californians buy coverage: how will we help fifty times that many?

Or maybe the McCain plan is actually what it seems—health coverage for the healthy and the rest of us are just out of luck.

And as for Governor Schwarzenegger’s plea that we should not fix the high risk pool absent comprehensive reform, we ask what reform plan is that? The plan of the presidential candidate he supports? Or the very different plan (or should we say, plans) he supported in 2007? As we look forward to 2009, both in California and nationally, we keep in mind the hundreds of thousands of Californians who cannot buy health insurance at any price.

Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.
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