Posted Nov 5, 2012, 10:11 am
Wouldn’t it be great if our candidates had
to take a dose of truth serum every morning before hitting the campaign
trail? If they did, those of us who will be voting tomorrow wouldn’t be
nearly as confused about what Obamacare is and what it isn’t, what it
will do and what it won’t.
Since there is no such truth serum
requirement, I believe that many of us will actually be voting against
our own best interests. Many Americans will vote for candidates who have
scared them into believing that Obamacare is a government takeover of
health care that it will bankrupt the country while slashing Medicare
In the event that you or someone you know might benefit
from some truth-telling, here, then, are a few things you ought to know
before pulling that lever tomorrow:
- The Affordable Care
Act is not a government takeover that has put us on a slippery slope
toward socialism, or even toward a single-payer system like the one in
the People’s Republic of Canada. In fact, the law actually shores up our
uniquely American, market-based, multi-payer system now dominated by
for-profit insurance corporations. That is not my favorite part of the
law. But if you think insurance companies contribute value to our
system, you should know that Obamacare gives them a new lease on life.
Their business practices—which for years have included refusing to sell
coverage to people with pre-existing conditions and pricing many other
folks out of the system—have actually resulted in an ever-shrinking
market. As a consequence, the insurers’ business models are not
sustainable. Without a requirement that we all buy coverage from them,
insurance companies will be able to grow only by taking market share
away from each other and by persuading senior citizens to enroll in
their profitable Medicare Advantage plans.
legislation is not going to add trillions to the deficit, even though it
will expand Medicaid and provide subsidies to low-income individuals
and families to buy private coverage. In fact, the opposite is true,
according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. In 2010, the
CBO estimated that Obamacare would actually reduce the deficit by $214
billion over 10 years, in part by reducing overpayments to private
insurers that operate Medicare Advantage plans. After Republicans who
had campaigned against the law regained control of the House after the
2010 elections, they passed legislation to repeal Obamacare in its
entirety—despite the fact that the CBO warned that their bill was the one that would increase the deficit—by $240 billion over 10 years. The bill went nowhere in the Senate.
- The Affordable Care Act will not cut Medicare benefits. On the
contrary, because of Obamacare, Medicare is now providing coverage for
preventive care, like cancer screenings, for the first time. And the law
is also improving the Medicare drug benefit by gradually reducing the
amount of money seniors have to pay for medications out of their own
pockets. As noted above, the law does reduce payments to insurers and to
some health care providers—by an estimated $716 billion over the coming
decade—but that money represents savings, not benefit cuts. One of the
reasons the hospital industry endorsed Obamacare is that by bringing
more people into coverage, hospitals will not have to provide nearly as
much uncompensated care, which hits their bottom lines very hard. So
hospitals were quite willing to go along with a reduction in future
payments from the government because they know they will more than make
up for it by having far fewer uninsured patients.
Here are some things the law will do:
- It will prohibit insurance companies from refusing to sell coverage to
people simply because they have one or more pre-existing conditions.
- It will also prohibit them from cancelling our coverage when we get sick just to avoid paying for our care.
- It will prohibit insurers from charging women more than men for
comparable coverage and will not allow them to charge older folks more
than three times as much as younger folks.
- It will
require them to spend at least 80 percent of what we pay in premiums
actually paying claims and improving care.
- It will allow
young adults—who comprise the largest segment of the uninsured—to stay
on their parents’ policies until age 26.
- It will reduce
the number of uninsured Americans by at least 30 million if all the
states agree to accept federal dollars to expand their Medicaid
That said, Obamacare is not a panacea for all that ails
the U.S. health care system. I view it as the end of the beginning of
reform. We will have to do more as a nation to bring everyone into
coverage, to control costs and to improve the way we deliver care. But
Obamacare does not resemble the law that many politicians have spent
millions of dollars trying to persuade us it is. Don’t be fooled into
voting against your own best interests tomorrow.
Following a 20-year career as a corporate public relations executive, Wendell Potter left his position as head of communications for CIGNA, one of the nation’s largest health insurers, to show the world the “dark inner workings” of the insurance industry.
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