Health Care Expert Jonathan Cohn: GOP's Plan To Eliminate Essential Health Benefits Won't “Reduce Costs”

Huff. Post's Cohn: AHCA “Shifts” Costs On “Individuals And Families Who Need” Care

From the March 23 edition of MSNBC Live:

Video file

ALI VELSHI (HOST): We want to talk more now about Obamacare's so-called essential health benefits that may now be in jeopardy. Republican leaders are reportedly considering eliminating those benefits to win over those “hell no” votes that Kasie was just talking about. Now those benefits include -- this is a big list -- about 10 different things: pregnancy, maternity and newborn care, mental health, substance abuse treatment, prescription drugs, emergency services, hospitalization, outpatient care, rehab, lab and diagnostic tests, preventative and wellness services, and pediatric care. 


These are things that some parts of the population need, by definition everybody doesn't need that, right? Half the population doesn't need maternity care. And a lot of people have come on air and said why do you make me pay for that? And the reason you have to make me pay for that is because that creates a risk pool that makes it cheaper for somebody who actually needs maternity care. 

JONATHAN COHN: Right, when you talk about the concept of insurance, we're talking about getting care for illnesses that not everybody gets. People often talk about maternity care. Why should men have to pay for maternity care? Now, we'll put aside the fact that in general, my biology is that it does take a man to make a baby. But let's put that aside. Why do we make women pay for prostate cancer treatment? Why do we make older people pay for care for younger people and younger people pay for older people? In general, the concept of insurance is, like you said, it's risk pooling. It's to take these expenses, which for any one person would be crippling, and spread them over the whole population on the theory that everybody can get sick, anybody can be born a man or woman or a boy or a girl, and so what you're saying with insurance is we all pay into this risk pool. And we all share it. And that way it's affordable for everybody over the course of their lifetime rather than saying, you're going to have a baby, you're going to have to pay for that. You have someone in your family with mental health problems. That's on you to pay. 


VELSHI: I want to try to understand from a whole health care cost perspective. Everybody who pays -- whether it's insurer, an individual, government -- America pays twice as much per person than every other developed country. In fact, in some countries, we're more than double. What does this do, taking the EHBs, essential health benefits out of the requirement of insurance companies, does it overall reduce the money we spend on health care? Raise it? What does it do? 

COHN: No. It doesn't. This is such an important point. You will hear conservatives and Republicans say we are reducing costs. That's not what this does. This shifts costs. It takes the cost away from the insurance pool, away from society, and puts it on those individuals and families who need it.


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