You Want to Kill Health Reform? OK, I Dare You to Repeal This

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Rep. Gary Ackerman of New York, a veteran liberal representing Brooklyn, just issued a scary/hilarious dare to the conservative incoming House leaders who are "pledging" to repeal all of the federal health reform.

He's filing a series of bills during the lame duck session of Congress, each intended to repeal a popular and consumer-protective portion of the federal Patient Protection Act. The repeals will collectively be called the HIPA-CRIT Act.

“This will be the big chance for Republicans to do what they’ve vowed to do,” said Ackerman. “These bills will be their chance to at long last restore liberty and repeal the evil monster they’ve dubbed ‘Obamacare.’”

I just hope he's right that there is a line that the repealers don't dare to cross.

The first volley of HIPA-CRIT is a bill, HR 6454, to repeal the ban on retroactive cancellation of health insurance policies when patients fall seriously ill, a practice known as rescission.

Other bills will propose reinstating insurers' right to deny coverage to adults and children because of pre-existing conditions, removing the prohibition on annual and lifetime coverage caps and canceling a requirement that allows children to remain on the policies of their parents until age 26.

Ackerman said in his press release:

The Affordable Care Act contains these and many other foolish protections for our constituents. So, join other Members of Congress who want to deprive their constituents of these silly safeguards from the big insurance companies. You can cast your courageous vote on a series of SIX bills to do it. Feel free to call it the HIPA-CRIT Act when you explain your vote.

Rescission was among the most vicious practices of insurers, leaving cancer victims and others with serious medical problems not only uninsured, but on the hook for tens of thousands of dollars or more in medical bills, back to when they were diagnosed. Anyone who has even read about rescissions recoils from the injustice and plain meanness of it.

Here's how it used to work, until the reforms banned it. You're insured with, say, Blue Cross. You are diagnosed with breast cancer. The company sends an army of clerks to look at your policy application. Aha! It looks like she misstated how much she weighed at the time! She didn't answer question 163c! Rescind her! None of the errors have anything to do with cancer, but they were an excuse to use a long, confusing and legalistically worded document dump a policyholder who would cost the company money. It was perfectly legal. Even an undisclosed ailment that a doctor noted but never mentioned to the patient was good enough for the rescinders.

Now, however, it's not perfectly legal. So show me a family that clamors for the insurance industry's right to retroactively cancel its insurance coverage when a child falls ill, leaving the family on the road to bankruptcy and uninsurable.

"I dare you, you idiots," appears to be the message of Ackerman's bill. He also issues a challenge to his colleagues: "Go ahead, make my day. Become a cosponsor," he says in boldfaced caps in his press release.

And just to push the knife in a little farther, the repeal would be retroactive, to March 2010, when the Patient Protection Act was enacted. Insurers would be free once again to unleash the armies of clerks and rescind individual policyholders who've fallen ill since then–leaving them on the hook for all their medical bills.

Even the insurance lobby won't be pounding the marble halls of Congress to get rid of consumer protections one by one–which is exactly Ackerman's point.

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