pre-existing conditions
Speaker of the Arizona House J.D. Mesnard introduced healthcare legislation for preexisting conditions. Photo by Olivia Richards, Cronkite News.

A law meant to protect pre-existing conditions has no limits on what insurance companies can charge for pre-existing coverage.

A new law is making its way through the Arizona legislature that would prohibit insurance companies from denying coverage to those with pre-existing medical conditions; however, it does not limit how much insurers can charge for it.

According to the Arizona Daily Star, the bill is considered a failsafe to protect those with pre-existing conditions from losing coverage if the Affordable Care Act is repealed. A court case challenging the ACA is currently making its way to the U.S.Supreme Court. If the court rules against the ACA, the healthcare law’s protections for individuals with pre-existing conditions would be removed. This would allow insurance companies to deny coverage based on medical history and potentially leave millions uninsured.

In anticipation of the removal of the ACA, Sen. J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, introduced SB1397, a bill that would prevent insurance companies from denying coverage to those with pre-existing conditions. The AZ Mirror reported that Attorney General Mark Brnovich supports the legislation. Brnovich is a longtime opponent of the ACA, and brought Arizona into the upcoming Supreme Court case that could lead to its repeal.

But one protection the ACA provides is left out of Mesnard’s bill: coverage cost. Under the current law, insurance companies can’t charge more for coverage if the individual has pre-existing conditions. Mesnard’s bill, however, has no limits on what insurance companies can charge.

“If my son were to buy an individual policy based on what I understand for this bill, then he could be charged a $10,000 deductible. And it’s totally unaffordable,” Cindy Komar said at Wednesday’s Senate Finance Committee meeting. Komar, a Valley resident, told the committee about her son’s battle with severe hemophilia and expressed the potential difficulties they could face.

Sen. Sean Bowie, D-Phoenix, along with other Democrats on the committee, raised similar concerns to that of Komar’s. Bowie said that without price limits written in the law, reasonable insurance costs for those with pre-existing conditions were wholly reliant on the providers.

“I will be supporting the bill because it is obviously better than nothing, but I would like us to have a larger conversation,” Bowie said. 

Mesnard told the committee he was open to reasonable improvements to the bill before sending it to the House floor for a vote. But Mesnard did not say what he would consider reasonable, or why the pricing limitations were not part of his legislation.

Republican lawmakers continue to maintain they will ensure coverage of pre-existing conditions with the repeal of ACA and under Trump’s proposed healthcare plan. But in October, the U.S. Senate, including Sen. Martha McSally, voted to allow the expansion of short-term, or “junk insurance” plans not required to cover pre-existing conditions.

And despite concerns from lawmakers and others in attendance about SB1397, the committee unanimously approved the bill. If signed into law, protections for pre-existing conditions outlined in the ACA would still supersede the provisions in the law, and would only take effect if those provisions were removed.