- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 6, 2010

Eighteen states have officially declined to participate in the new high-risk insurance pools - which offer a subsidized insurance option to those with pre-existing conditions - called for by the Democrats’ health reform plan. My question is: Why would any state want to participate? According to Richard Foster, Medicare’s chief actuary, the $5 billion set aside to seed the program probably will last only until 2012 and even could run out in 2011, putting already strained state budgets on the hook for the rest. And any state that opts out will still get the benefits, as the federal government, through the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), steps in to offer patients a federally backed option.

Indeed, that seems to have been more or less what Georgia’s state insurance commissioner was thinking when he wrote to inform Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius that his state would not be participating. “I have no confidence that this so-called temporary program will not burden the taxpayers of Georgia. I am concerned that the high risk pool program will ultimately become the financial responsibility of Georgians in the form of an unfunded mandate,” he said.

Nor was Georgia the only state concerned that the program would further crunch state budgets. From The Washington Post:

“In a letter Friday to Sebelius, Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) said the state, which will not establish its own high-risk pool, estimates that the $113 million in federal funds available to it will be used up within 22 months. Virginia’s secretary of health and human resources, William A. Hazel Jr., said Monday that setting up the pools “is an enormously complicated undertaking.”

Peter Suderman is a columnist and associate editor at Reason magazine. This first appeared at reason.com.

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