Republicans seek clarity on high-risk insurance pools

Senate Republicans this week are criticizing the White House for failing to establish high-risk insurance pools by a statutory deadline.

The pools, established by the Democrats' new health reform law, were designed to provide coverage to sicker Americans until insurance exchanges launch in 2014. The law stipulated that the pools be created within 90 days of passage — something the Republicans say hasn't been done.

"To date," the Republicans wrote in a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, "the federal government has failed to provide any funding for this program and Americans with pre-existing conditions have not been able to enroll in the new high risk pools."

Twenty-eight Republicans signed onto the letter, which was spearheaded by Sen. Mike Enzi (Wyo.), ranking member of the Senate Health Committee.

The concerns came one day after the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the high-risk pool program will cost more and cover fewer people than Democrats have claimed. The analysis wasn't lost on the Republicans, who are asking Sebelius for the administration's latest enrollment projections for the program.  

"We also continue to have concerns that the high risk pool provisions in the new health care law will fail to provide the assistance promised by supporters of the new law," the Republicans wrote. "While some sources (including the White House health reform website) estimate that as many as 12 million people are denied coverage due to a pre-existing condition, the funding provided under the new law will provide coverage to only a fraction of those individuals."