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Health Insurers Propose to Accept All Applicants, With One Big Condition

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Last Wednesday, Health insurers released proposals to accept all applicants, regardless of preexisting disease or disability, IF Congress mandates all Americans have coverage. Although the "if" is a huge condition, it is also a huge step in the direction towards universal health care coverage. With newly-announced support from the health industry’s two largest trade associations, America’’s Health Insurance Plans and Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, the plan is likely to reform the health care system as President- elect Barack Obama takes office in a few months. However, Obama’s plan only mandates health care coverage for all children, as he opposes a mandate for adults, which could prove to be a point of contention between lawmakers.

In our current health care system, many people with preexisting diseases and illnesses cannot get health insurance at any cost. If the system changed and heath insurers were forced to accept all applicants, absent the universal coverage provision, insurers fear people will wait until they become sick before buying insurance, ultimately driving up the cost for everyone. However, by imposing a universal coverage condition, healthier individuals will off-set the sick, which will drive premiums and prices down for all. According to Alissa Fox, Vice President of Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, "Insurance works best when everyone is in the pool. You need healthy people in the insurance pool to help pay for sicker individuals who are much more motivated to buy coverage."

Supporters of the legislation would like the bill to pass sometime next year; however, it remains to be seen exactly how the premiums will work and how the mandate will be enforced. With the economy on a downward spiral and more and more people losing their jobs and employer-sponsored health care, a universal system may be the only answer, and the mandate might not look too bad after all.