Views from Kansas: Junk argument, junk insurance

Editor’s Note: Views from Kansas is a regular feature that highlights editorials and other viewpoints from across the state.

Kansas Republicans are pushing a junk argument for junk health insurance

Insurance that doesn’t cover pre-existing conditions, mental illness, maternity care, prescription drugs or treatment for substance abuse is called junk insurance for a reason: You might as well just pretend you have coverage, because for anything in between routine care and cataclysm, you really do not.

Republican legislators in Kansas show no sign they’re ashamed to be pushing to allow trade association health plans that are cheaper but don’t necessarily include all of the coverage required under the Affordable Care Act.

But they should be embarrassed by the bill requested by the Kansas Farm Bureau that passed the Republican-controlled Senate 28-11 last week. The measure would allow the Kansas Farm Bureau to sell coverage that not only doesn’t follow ACA rules but is not subject to any state rules under the Kansas Insurance Department, either.

Here’s their junk argument for junk insurance: Kansans “are more concerned about rising health premiums than pre-existing conditions,” said state Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook, a Republican from Shawnee who voted for the bill. “We should support lower cost of acquiring health care coverage, so people can have it before they develop what would otherwise be pre-existing conditions.”

Costs are too high, and that’s a serious problem. But shrinking the cost by simply cutting coverage is not the answer.

That only cuts the cost in the short term, anyway, because since emergency rooms cannot turn patients away, we would all pay more in the long run.

Suggesting, as Pilcher-Cook does, that everybody can get around the exclusion of those with pre-existing conditions by signing up for bare-bones coverage is disingenuous. That wouldn’t work for those who have already had cancer, asthma, diabetes, autism or any number of other chronic illnesses or disabilities. In the past, insurance companies were inventive in finding ways to deny coverage.

The thinking that this lower level of coverage is fine for young, healthy people isn’t a safe bet even for them: If you are in your 20s and experiencing serious symptoms of a mental illness at the most common age of onset, for example, the Republican members of the Kansas Legislature would no doubt wish you well, but treatment would not have to be covered under several bills they’re pushing.

And the hypocrisy of allowing insurance companies to once again discriminate against women who need maternal care while also pushing for an amendment to the state constitution that would effectively ban abortion is stunning if no longer surprising.

“For some people, it will work out fine,” said Sen. Barbara Bollier, a doctor and Democrat from Mission Hills. But if you get sick, “it’s bad, and then for everyone else, when you take out healthy people from the market, all our costs go up.”

Instead of paring the list of illnesses and conditions that have to be covered, lawmakers should be expanding the number of Kansans eligible for Medicaid.

• Originally published in The Kansas City Star


Welcome to the new Our old commenting system has been replaced with Facebook Comments. There is no longer a separate username and password login step. If you are already signed into Facebook within your browser, you will be able to comment. If you do not have a Facebook account and do not wish to create one, you will not be able to comment on stories.