While the health reform bill approved by the Senate Finance Committee isn't going to be the final product of Democrats in Congress, it's still instructive to look at. Especially when the phrase "waiting lists" is used.
At issue is Section 2215 on page 39, "Temporary High Risk Pools For Individuals With Preexisting Conditions."
Basically, this is a temporary insurance effort that would be backed by the government to the tune of $5 billion, to get insurance to people who can't get currently coverage because of preexisting medical conditions.
The report of the Finance Committee states that those eligible for this special pool are those who have been lost their coverage because of a preexisting condition or who have been uninsured for at least six months.
I noticed the provision last week, when I searched for every single dollar sign in the bill. What I didn't notice was one part of it, which discussed what would happen if expenses were too much for the government to cover with the $5 billion that would be authorized under this section for temporary coverage of those with preexisting conditions.
"If the Secretary estimates for any fiscal year that the aggregate amounts available for payment of expenses of the high risk pool will be less than the amount of the expenses, the Secretary shall make such adjustments as are necessary to eliminate such deficit, including reducing benefits, increasing premiums, or establishing waiting lists," the bill states.
In other words, if cash is low, then benefits could be cut, premiums could be increased and "waiting lists" could be established.
That last item caught the eye of Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA) as he was struggling his way through the bill one night last week.
"If I'm reading it correctly," Westmoreland said, "that concerns me."
"I've never known of an insurance company that would establish waiting lists," he added.
"That suggests rationing of care."
I looked through the four other bills that have been approved by committees in the Congress this year on health reform, and I didn't find the term "waiting lists" in any of them.
Is this rationing? Let me know what you think this section of the Baucus bill would do.
We'll see if it even makes it into the bill that goes to the Senate floor.