Last week, Investor’s Business Daily published an editorial reporting that individual private insurance would be outlawed once the House Democratic health care bill went into effect. Legislative language is quite opaque, to say the least, and after reading through the relevant sections, I wasn’t completely convinced that this was the case. IBD followed up with a bit more nuanced editorial explaining that private insurers would still be able to offer individual insurance, but only through a new government-run exchange that would impose heavy regulations on participating insurers. At the prompting of our dilligent intern Molly O’Connor, I looked a bit further into the issue. This morning, I was able to independently confirm the IBD editorial with several staffers on the Ways and Means committee (both Republican and Democrat). And if that doesn’t convince you, especially telling is a video clip (see below), in which Rep. Paul Ryan poses the question of individual private insurance to Cybele Bjorklund, who is the Democrats’ staff director on the Health Subcommittee that helped author the bill. While existing plans would be grandfathered in, Bjorklund responds that insurers “cannot create new policies outside of that window, outside of the exchange, but they can choose to operate in the exchange.”
To put it in less wonky terms, under the House bill, starting in 2013, individuals would only be allowed to purchase insurance policies from a government-run store. And if private insurers want to sell individual insurance, they will only be able to do so through the government. So, there would still be nominally private insurers, but not a private marketplace for individual insurance. Kudos to IBD for unearthing this.