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Please Don't Dive Into this Pool

Harold Pollack is a professor at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration and Special Correspondent for The Treatment.

At the 11:57th hour, Republicans are set to announce their own health plan, as Jonathan notes below. According to the Wall Street Journal

Mr. Boehner said the Republican bill would also propose grants for states that use "innovative" solutions to expand coverage. He pointed to states that have created special "high-risk pools" to provide insurance to individuals with pre-existing conditions.

He said the bill wouldn't raise taxes, nor mandate that individuals and businesses purchase insurance, as the Democratic legislation does.

Not long ago, I interviewed Kathy Swartz, who noted the very serious problems of state high-risk pools. Back in August, the General Accountability Office issued its own blunt critique of these programs. About 200,000 Americans are now covered in such HRPs. These men and women have an average household income of only $41,000. They pay higher premiums than private insurers typically charge healthy individuals. They face average deductibles exceeding $1,500 and lifetime expenditure caps. People dealing with serious illnesses must endure painful waiting periods before they can enroll. 

These programs aren’t cheap, either. HRPs expended about $1.9 billion in claims last year, about $9,400 per person enrolled. The GAO estimates that another four million Americans would be eligible because they are uninsured and experience costly health problems. This is just a nonstarter