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Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman April 4, 2014

Rick Scott wants to go back to denying coverage for pre-existing conditions, Charlie Crist says

Former Gov. Charlie Crist is a very rare breed of a candidate running in a competitive statewide race: He’s in love with Obamacare, and he’s not afraid to say it.

In fact, it’s terrible that Gov. Rick Scott is against the law, Crist says, in a new online video responding to Scott.

"The truth is Rick Scott wants to take us back to the days of insurance companies denying coverage for pre-existing conditions, where women are charged more than men, and lifetime caps limit care, even for kids with cancer."

Several opponents of the law say they want to scrap it but keep elements they support -- for example, banning insurers from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions, one of the most popular elements of the law. We wanted to check what Scott has said in the past about pre-existing conditions.

We asked Crist’s campaign for documentation that Scott is in favor of denying coverage for pre-existing conditions. Former Sen. Steve Geller, an informal adviser to Crist’s campaign, cited newspaper reports that stated Scott had failed to propose an alternative to the health care law.

We asked Scott’s campaign for his position on pre-existing conditions. Spokesman Greg Blair pointed to a July 2012 interview Scott gave to Newsmax, a conservative news outlet:

"If you’re worried about pre-existing conditions, give the individual the same tax breaks as an employer so when you change jobs, you don’t lose your health insurance, just like you don’t lose your life insurance if you have your own policy," Scott said.

Scott made similar remarks in July 2012: "Give individuals the same tax breaks as employers so they can buy their own insurance so they won't have to deal with the pre-existing conditions."

We weren’t sure how tax breaks would end exclusions for pre-existing conditions, and Blair declined to elaborate on Scott’s proposal.

Health care experts

We sent Scott’s quote about tax breaks to health care experts and asked if that would be a solution to pre-existing conditions. They told us that if the 2010 health law disappeared, a 1996 law protects most people from denial after gaps of less than 63 days. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act established that time frame.

That means if you lose coverage but get new coverage within the 63-day window, you don’t have to worry about pre-existing conditions. And insurers can only look back 18 months for coverage gaps.

But if you go without insurance for longer than 63 days, then the experts told us that Scott’s tax breaks don’t help you.

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Mark Pauly, a professor of public policy at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, said a tax break has no direct connection to covering pre-existing conditions.

"Giving Gov. Scott the benefit of the doubt for lack of artfulness, I think he was referring to proposals that would give ‘portability’ to people who had obtained group coverage so they could continue that coverage (and its tax break) even if they went to self employment or a job in a company not offering coverage. ... The general idea (is) that you can continue your coverage without being singled out for ‘re-underwriting’ if you had continuous coverage."

Insured people in poor health are more likely to lose their coverage from one year to the next if it is employment-based coverage rather than individual coverage, he said.

Policy experts disagree on just how helpful Scott’s proposal would be.

Michael Tanner, a health care expert at the libertarian CATO Institute, said Scott’s suggestion "is part of a long-term solution that I think would do a very good job of dealing with the problem. In the end some people would probably still fall through cracks, but for most people with pre-existing conditions, this solves the problem."

On the other hand, Jonathan Oberlander, a health policy professor at the University of North Carolina said that by themselves, tax credits do little to help people with pre-existing conditions.

"A limited tax credit will not help someone with cancer get coverage unless there are protections in place that compel insurance companies to take all customers regardless of their medical condition and that prevent insurers from charging exorbitant premiums to persons with pre-existing conditions," he said.

Crist’s campaign told us that Scott is suggesting changes to federal tax law that governors don’t have a say in anyway.

Despite Scott’s opposition to the health care law, it is still being implemented in Florida. As of February 440,000 Floridians signed up for plans, the most of any state using the federal exchange.

Our ruling

Crist said in a video, "Rick Scott wants to take us back to the days of insurance companies denying coverage for pre-existing conditions."

There is no dispute that Scott has been a persistent critic of the health care law which banned insurance companies from refusing coverage due to pre-existing conditions.

We could not find many comments from Scott about pre-existing conditions, and the two brief remarks we found didn’t explain his ideas in detail. Overall, Scott supports tax breaks that allow people to buy their own insurance, and if they keep themselves insured, they don’t have to worry about pre-existing conditions.

But that would leave those who end up uninsured for more than a few months in danger of being denied coverage for pre-existing conditions.

We rate this claim Mostly True.

Our Sources

Charlie Crist campaign video, "Again," March 27, 2014

CNN Political Ticker, "Five things polling tells us about Obamacare," March 31, 2014

Palm Beach Post, "Editorial: Is Rick Scott really ready to tax his medicine?" Nov. 17, 2012

Miami Herald, "Crist and Scott go to battle over health care in dueling ads," March 27, 2014

Interview, Michael Tanner, Cato Institute senior fellow, April 2, 2014

Interview, Mark Pauly, professor of health care management at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, April 1, 2014

Interview, Gail Wilensky, economist and senior fellow at Project HOPE and head of Medicare and Medicaid under President George H.W. Bush, April 1, 2014

Interview, Timothy Jost, Washington and Lee University law professor and co-author of the casebook Health Law, April 1, 2014

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Rick Scott wants to go back to denying coverage for pre-existing conditions, Charlie Crist says

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