LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Republicans can’t go home again on health care plan

“The ACA Lives Another Day …” was the heading of the Opinion letter on Aug. 5. It prompted me to look back on health care in the USA and how it has changed into the multi-billion dollar, world’s most costly health care industry we now have.

Gone are the 19th century doctors who accepted chickens or other items of barter. Gone are the days of a doctor’s house call or office visits which were paid for out of pocket. The late 19th and early 20th centuries brought us effective diagnoses, medicines, vaccines and surgeries. While all costs increase, the pharmaceutical, hospital and insurance corporations saw opportunities for big profits and began to drive up costs beyond the Consumer Price Index.

In the 1920s, Baylor University Medical Center initiated a kind of health care program we might call “health insurance.” The local teachers’ union members would pay $6 per year. This entitled them to a 21-day hospital stay. A deductible was charged if the excess of costs were above $5 per day. This was a nonprofit plan which spread nationwide and was named “Blue Cross.”

To attract employees in the 40s, businesses began to pay for employee health insurance. In 1943, the federal government declared that these payments were tax-deductible for the company. Not long afterwards, for-profit insurance companies appeared and sought out the younger healthier individuals who would be less likely to receive benefits, thus giving sizable profits to the companies.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield merged in 1982 and continued charging the same premium regardless of age or illness. By 1994, after losing too much money, they were forced to become a for-profit provider. Throughout the U.S., health care costs have continually risen as insurers have become investment vehicles, maximizing profits for shareholders to the detriment of the insured.

I am the beneficiary of employer-paid health care insurance (no longer offered anywhere) and a contributory pension. These are not available to all American workers. After failed attempts by President Nixon and Hillary Clinton, President Obama, our first African-American president, encouraged and signed the “Patient Protection and Affordable Healthcare Act” in March of 2010. Congressional hearings beginning in March 2009 were attended by insurers, big pharma and others.

The House passed a version in October of 2009 and the Senate in December of that year. The compromise bill mandated coverage of several basic needs, of pre-existing conditions, coverage for offspring up to age 26 and provided subsidies for lower income families.

Exchanges were set up in many states as well as federally with various plans available. This enabled 20 million more Americans reasonable cost access to insurance and health care, not just sick care.

Republicans labeled the PPACA ”Obamacare,” deriding it because it came from an African-American Democratic president and the Democratic Congress. The PPACA was not perfect which President Obama recognized, saying that it was the best compromise he could get. The House Republicans voted over 70 times to repeal the PPACA. But even as they did so, they supplied absolutely no alternative plan.

Under the PPACA, insurance companies were required to spend 80 percent of premiums on healthcare costs. They are allowed 20 percent of their premiums for “administrative costs” They advertise themselves, especially on TV, as caregivers. (The average cost of a 30-second commercial not during the Super Bowl is $350,000)

To continue to increase profits (and bonuses?) they continued to raise premiums. Left alone, they are choosy about whom they cover and what they cover to minimize paying benefits and maximize profits for shareholders and executives. Medicare, by contrast, doesn’t advertise and provides for good care with administrative costs of around 2 percent. It needs the authority to negotiate drug costs like the VA. This is why “Medicare for All” has been suggested as a better plan for all Americans.

As a candidate, one of the current president’s promises was to repeal “Obamacare” and replace it with something Americans would love. (He also promised to protect Medicare and Medicaid yet both are vulnerable.) House Republicans put forth their R and R bill on March 6 but failed to bring it to a floor vote because it lacked sufficient Republican support. A select group of Senate Republicans held secret meetings to formulate their bill which they revealed on July 13. It came to a vote 12 days later and failed to pass.

Only three Republican senators voted “NO,” putting people ahead of politics. Both House and Senate bills were found lacking by the Congressional Budget Office.

The Senate bill would remove health care insurance from 14 million Americans by 2018. Both bills would eventually push up to 24 million Americans off of insurance, increase costs to lower-income families, end subsidies and cap Medicaid payments by giving block grants to states. Republicans have tried for decades to convince Americans that “free market” insurance will lower premiums.

This approach has actually increased costs for decades. I’ve not seen premiums lowered except by accepting a plan that covers much less and has much higher co-pays and deductibles. This president claimed his idea of a better plan would be easy, yet he failed to even provide an outline of what he meant. The PPACA required a year to pass, yet this president pushed Republicans to pass a plan in a matter of weeks. Republican had seven years but they failed to create their own plan.

A new health care plan that benefits all Americans will require both parties in both houses of Congress to put the interests and the health of their constituents ahead of ideology and politics.

In the aforementioned letter, the writer states “There will not be a kumbaya meeting of the minds in Washington, DC.” She later states, “There is an invisible wall throughout our Senate and House memberships across the aisles that must be eradicated.” Does the writer think this is possible despite her earlier statement?

That wall began with the election of President Obama. It is well documented that Republicans wasted no time and expended great efforts in blocking most of his agenda. His plans included many moderate and/or conservative ideas. The PPACA is based upon a plan from the conservative think tank, The Heritage Foundation, as well as on “Romneycare.”

Sen. Schumer has often publicly stated in the media that he and Democrats are willing to negotiate across the aisle to create a better healthcare plan for America. Neither Sen. McConnell nor House Speaker Ryan have expressed anything like this. The “free market” Republicans want to “go home again” to the days before the PPACA. If successful, too many Americans will be “like the walking dead.”

I credit “An American Sickness,” a book by Elizabeth Rosenthal, physician and journalist for the research she presented whose genuine (not alternative) facts I have selected for this letter.

Alan Gaddis
Dover

 

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