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What Is a Pre-Existing Condition?

This Congressman Seems Confused About What "Preexisting Conditions" Are

Republicans in Congress are committed to dismantling the Affordable Care Act, particularly the clause that requires individual state insurance exchanges to cover people with preexisting conditions. Despite the fact that part of his job is to understand what a preexisting condition is, GOP House Representative Mo Brooks demonstrated he either has no idea what constitutes preexisting or he is simply heartless.

A preexisting condition is defined as a medical condition that a person had before seeking insurance; conditions could range from cancer to a condition a patient was born with, like asthma. Presently, the Affordable Care Act requires health insurance companies to provide coverage for people with preexisting conditions at the same cost as their peers without preexisting conditions.

Speaking to CNN's Jake Tapper about President Donald Trump's second attempt to pass another healthcare plan, Mo Brooks suggested people with preexisting conditions had control over their health. "My understanding is that (the new bill) will allow insurance companies to require people who have higher healthcare costs to contribute more to the insurance pool," Brooks said. "That helps offset all these costs, thereby reducing the cost to those people who lead good lives, they're healthy, they've done the things to keep their bodies healthy. And right now, those are the people — who've done things the right way — that are seeing their costs skyrocketing."

What Brooks originally implied is that people who don't have preexisting conditions are "healthy" people who "lead good lives," which ostensibly stipulates some level of control. Of course people who live healthier lives often have less medical problems, but that does not exempt, say, a nonsmoker from having asthma or a child from getting leukemia.

Following his seemingly ignorant gaffe, Brooks tried to walk back his statement. "Now, in fairness, a lot of these people with preexisting conditions, they have those conditions through no fault of their own. I think our society, under those circumstances, needs to help," Brooks said. "The challenge, though, is that it's a tough balancing act between the higher cost of these mandates, which denies people coverage because they can't afford their health insurance policies . . . and having enough coverage to help those people truly in need."

Brooks, a Freedom Caucus member from Alabama, is a proponent of scrapping protections for preexisting coverage. One of the main reasons Trump's first healthcare plan didn't pass was because the Freedom Caucus objected to the mandate's inclusion in his proposal. However the new GOP healthcare plan does not include a provision for health insurance companies to provide coverage for patients with preexisting conditions. Instead, the proposal essentially allows states to decide whether they want to keep the rule.

Congressional Republicans do not have enough support to pass the new proposal. At least 21 House Republicans are in the "no" camp, and if two more break with the party, the bill will not pass.

Image Source: Getty / Alex Wong
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