Take pre-existing conditions. It’s not that this isn’t a problem — it is. But it’s not nearly as large as so many people I meet seem to imagine. In fact, it doesn’t even seem to be as large as health-care wonks thought, prior to 2010. The health-care law created high-risk pools to take care of this problem, allowing this group of people to buy insurance at subsidized rates. It was projected to cover almost 400,000 people, but ended up covering about a quarter of that number — and in order to get that many, administrators had to engage in aggressive promotion and relax the qualification requirements.
In part, that’s because we already passed a law to deal with pre-existing conditions, the 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. The law covers a lot of ground, but one of the things it does is ensure that you’ll be able to keep buying insurance if you already have it. Even before that, individual policies often had a feature called “guaranteed renewal,” which allowed you to keep renewing even if you got sick.
And in many cases the problem for people with pre-existing conditions was not necessarily that no one would sell them insurance, but that the insurance people would sell them cost more than they wanted to pay. That’s a very different problem from “can’t buy it at any price” — but the latter is the problem that most people thought we were solving with Obamacare.