By William Davidson, M.D.
A recent Sunday Opinion section of the Patriot-News presented two differing views of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), better known as Obamacare. Don Kusler defended the legislation while Grace-Marie Turner felt it should be repealed. Mr. Kusler noted that the law will reduce the number of uninsured by expanding Medicaid and having the government help the working poor buy health insurance policies.
Including college-age children on their parent’s policies as well as rules to prevent insurance denials because of previous conditions were other reasons to defend the ACA, according to Mr. Kusler. Ms. Turner, on the other hand, feels the legislation will be too costly, destroy jobs, and inhibit the medical industry’s creativity. She feels a new law promoting market competition would expand access to care, drive down costs while stimulating the economy.
Both points of view seem superficially defendable. But both are misleading the readers by what they don’t say. Ms. Turner seems to suffer from a very short memory. Long before President Obama came to office America’s small businesses had been experiencing double-digit increases in healthcare premiums such that many businesses no longer offer health insurance to their employees.
A competitive health care market place has been in place in America for well over 30 years. The result is we have the most expensive, dysfunctional system in the entire industrial world that leaves 1 of 6 Americans uninsured, a million medical bankruptcies, and 45,000 premature deaths yearly because of limited access to care. The countries with the less competitive markets have none of these disadvantages and spend half as much.
Mr. Kusler fails to mention that legislation that prevents denials for “previous conditions” doesn’t help much if the premiums are unaffordable. Obamacare does not prevent the insurance industry from raising premiums as was pointed out in Ms. Turner’s editorial. Even with expansion of Medicaid and government subsidies to buy insurance, ACA will leave more than 20 million Americans uninsured, a fact Mr. Kusler does not include. More importantly, the American “non-system” of health care requires 1 in 3 health care dollars to be spent on administration.
Such an incredible bureaucratic waste will become even greater as the government attempts to track employment and financial status of its citizens in order to determine their eligibility for subsidies. Finally, and the most glaring oversight by Mr. Kusler, is the reality that the medical insurance products that Americans will purchase will come with high deductibles, co-pays, and limited protection against serious illness. By preserving the private insurance industry’s stranglehold on health care, Obamacare makes health care subject to corporate profitability -- not a public good.
When President Obama arrived on the scene, America’s health care system was in need of repair just like our economy was in need of help. Unfortunately, in both instances, the Obama administration in collaboration with both parties called upon corporate America to fix the problems that they (corporate America) had largely created. Not unexpectedly, their solutions served corporate America’s interests rather than that of most Americans and at the end of the day we will find that our health care system problems will remain unsolved.
Both Mr. Kusler and Ms. Turner reflect the views of our present political power structure and both leave out the only viable solution which is a publicly financed, privately delivered single-payer system.
Dr. William Davidson is a retired cardiologist and now works part-time at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Lebanon. He is also a member of HealthCare4AllPa which advocates for Single Payer state bill SB400 (The Family and Business Health Care Security Act).