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Does Lying Make Healthcare Simpler?

Earlier this year, the President admitted that healthcare and healthcare reform are complicated.

The House of Representatives passed the American Health Care Act in May as its repeal and replace Obamacare offering to America. The Congressional print of the Affordable Care Act when finally passed as amended was over 900 pages; the AHCA came in at 130 pages — certainly, an attempt at a simpler healthcare environment.  The President described the AHCA as a “mean” and “cold-hearted” “son of a bitch.”

The Senate GOP leadership then proposed in June its Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017.  If the number of pages makes a difference, the Senate’s bill, at 145 pages, is a little less simple than the House’s AHCA, but still much simpler than Obamacare.  The additional pages used in the Senate proposal, unfortunately, did not make the Better Care Act less mean — actually, the consensus is that the Better Care Act is “meaner” than the AHCA. The national negative reaction, along with a number of GOP Senators being unable to vote for the bill, resulted in the vote being postponed until later in July.

After the Senate vote was delayed, the President met with the GOP Senators at the White House for a pep talk of sorts, telling them that “This will be great if we get it done and if we don’t get it done it’s going to be something that we’re not going to like and that’s OK and I can understand that.” According to the President, “We have given ourselves a little bit more time to make it perfect.”

Then, in the hours that followed, the President forgot about healthcare’s complexity and focused his efforts on misinformation and misdirection.  When congratulating the Cubs  on their World Series victory, the President told reporters that “We’re going to have a big surprise. … We’re going to have a great, great surprise.”  The next day the President posted the following Tweet at 3:37 a.m., which I suppose was the surprise: “If Republican Senators are unable to pass what they are working on now, they should immediately REPEAL, and then REPLACE at a later date!”

Repealing Obamacare is extraordinarily complicated and would hurt many people — is the Senate, whose GOP members can’t muster 50 votes to pass an arguably harsh repeal and replace bill, able to get enough votes to pass a much harsher repeal bill?  Will Senators agree to repeal all protections for people with pre-existing conditions, and take away the right of adult children to stay on their parents’ insurance until they are 26, and terminate accountable care organizations, and rollback all Medicaid expansion and marketplace health plans, and stop all subsidies to people, and on and on?  Yes, repeal would attract the more conservative Senators, like Paul and Cruz, who want Obamacare and its regulations repealed, but would be opposed by many moderate Senators, like Collins, Capito, and Heller, who remain concerned about the negative impact on their states if Obamacare is drastically changed.

Statements by the President and GOP Senators and House members about the death of Obamacare, its imminent collapse and implosion, are the lies that have fueled the rush to repeal and replace.  These lies have been debunked by the CBO.  The challenges faced by Obamacare are largely because the GOP has refused to help fix the problems because  it and its members’ supporters (i.e., the insurance companies and the pharmaceutical industry) would rather go back to the ways things were by repealing Obamacare.

It is lie is that Obamacare is bad and must be repealed because of the collapsing insurance markets and the increasing premium costs.  Despite its flaws, Obamacare extended coverage, made sure that the sickest segments of our population would still be able to get affordable insurance, forced the insurance companies to actually spend their premium dollars on the health of their insureds, and required that all policies provide certaIn basic benefits so that the insureds actually had coverage after paying premiums.  If Obamacare had been allowed to work the way it was supposed, the individual and employer mandates would have made the pool of insureds bigger and reduced the rate of increase of premium costs.

It is a lie that the insurance markets are collapsing.  Insurers are dropping out of the markets because of their losses (i.e., reduced profits).  For years insurers have enjoyed artificially inflated profits by unilaterally reducing payments to physicians, hospitals, and other healthcare providers, by shifting the risk of insurance to the providers, and by denying benefits to insureds.  Obamacare required these insurers for the first time in a long to actually provide insurance, pay claims, and accept the risk of covering their sick insureds whose money they took for so long.  Insurers should never have been allowed to withdraw from the markets or a public option should have been provided — in any event, the struggle of the markets was orchestrated by insurance companies themselves, aided and abetted by the a GOP who refused to make necessary changes to Obamacare to address these problems.

A related lie is that things will be fine once we allow capitalism and the free market to work.  Who believes this?  Obamacare was the result of an out of control insurance industry abusing its customers in the manner described above.

The Wall Street Journal supports the Senate bill. In an editorial last week, the WSJ said “Repairing the failing individual insurance market, putting Medicaid on budget for the first time in the entitlement’s history, and passing an enormous pro-growth tax cut are historic opportunities.”  Do not ignore the fact that “putting Medicaid on a budget” means less or no care for people getting healthcare now or who will need it in the future.  If rationing healthcare is the goal, then state it plainly and let Americans decide if they ate prepared to have someone decide whose child goes without vaccines, whose grandmother is thrown out of the nursing home, and whose spouse with breast cancer goes untreated.  And this is the underpinning of another lie — the GOP has been telling us that its repeal and replace bills will improve healthcare for Americans.  However, the bills have nothing to do with healthcare other than to reduce its availability and affordability.

The biggest lie of the President and the GOP is that their proposals are what the people want and what they promised when they ran for election.  The great unpopularity of the GOP’s bills demonstrates that those bills are not what people who need health insurance want.  More important, the disconnect between the popular election rhetoric of repeal and replace and the dissatisfaction that voters express when presented with the effects of the GOP’s efforts at repealing and replacing shows that most Americans’ knowledge of Obamacare is still based on the 8 years of lies that the GOP has been telling about it — and continues to tell.

So, even though all of us know that healthcare is complicated, the President appears  convinced that lying will make it simpler and make it easier to tell the Trump core that another promise has been kept.  Making healthcare better should be about more than checking boxes on a list.

 

 

 

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