During a town hall in Keene, New Hampshire this morning, Rick Santorum told a mother whose son survived cancer that people with pre-existing conditions should pay more for health care coverage because they make poor health care choices. While specifically exempting the woman’s child from personal blame, Santorum insisted that the sick cost more to insure and insurers should charge them higher premiums:
MOTHER: The comments I heard you make in New Hampshire, comments that you support insurance companies’ right to refuse to insure people with pre-existing conditions and that you also agreed with higher premiums for people who are sick, well my son graduated college and I pray that he gets a good job. Why is it alright for him to possibly be denied health care insurance or have to possibly pay a fee that he would not be able to afford or for a company not to hire him because he was five years old and he had cancer? …
SANTORUM: Insurance works when people who are higher risk end up having to pay more, as they should. In your case, your son obviously did nothing wrong. Obviously there are a lot of other people that increased their health risk that did do things wrong and as a result, it resulted in higher health care costs.
The woman asked the question in response to remarks Santorum made in Merrimeck, New Hampshire, where he defended insurers for denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions and argued that individuals who are sick should pay higher premiums. “I’m okay with that,” Santorum said.
At today’s event, Santorum claimed that the pre-existing conditions clause in the Affordable Care Act — which will prevent insurers from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions or charging them more for coverage — would increase health care costs because people would wait until they’re sick to purchase coverage and refuse to heed the mandate. But as the Massachusetts health law demonstrated, the mandate will likely encourage younger and healthier people to purchase coverage before they fall ill and help reduce the number of so-called “free riders.” Reform also expands the risk pool so the costs of the sick people are paid for with the premiums of the healthy. Once they fall ill, their costs will be borne by the next generation of healthy beneficiaries.