Nel's New Day

March 22, 2014

GOP Approach to Health Care

Did you hear that the House GOP members have a new health care reform plan. A couple of months ago Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) said, “This year, we will rally around an alternative to ObamaCare and pass it on the floor of the House.” The House has already passed at least 51 bills about the Affordable Care Act, all of which have gone nowhere. In a more cautious approach a month later, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said that his GOP leaders would have “conversations” about alternatives.

“A Stronger Health Care System: The GOP Plan for Freedom, Flexibility, & Peace of Mind” proposes expanding high-risk insurance pools, promoting health savings accounts, and inducing small businesses to combine coverage purchasing. To help the insurance companies make more money, the GOP wants the ability to buy insurance across state lines. The bill would include guaranteed policy renewability and changes in medical-malpractice regulations. Five years of secret meetings have led to this grand idea.

House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said that the new plan would provide a side-by-side comparison of their idea with the existing one. Hopefully it will show which approach covers more uninsured, offers more consumer protections, improve the economy, and help lower costs without sacrificing the quality of care. As I said, it’s been five years ….

 The major problem of the GOP comparison may be that they don’t know any facts about the ACA. Boehner used his “simple math” to determine that fewer people have health care under ACA. As his proclamation stated, “I believe ….” Unfortunately, beliefs aren’t always the same as facts.

The people who he “believes” lost their insurance moved automatically into other policies with the same companies. The Washington Post, not known for a liberal bent, has figures showing that almost 9 million people were added to the insurance roles:


  • 3.4 million — sign-ups, assuming 80 percent paid, though February
  • 2.4 million — lowest estimate for new Medicaid enrollment through January
  • 2.2 million — young adults added to parents’ plans (2010 average to first two quarters of 2013)
  • 500,000 — off-exchange enrollments


In tracking state-by-state numbers, blogger Charles Gaba calculates the actual number of people adding insurance through mid-March at 14 million. More conservative approaches end up with at least 13 million.

Giving Boehner the benefit of the doubt that he’s not lying about the statistics, people can see that he doesn’t care about details of his information to the press. He’s pushing election-year rhetoric, and some media buy it without fact-checking. That includes his false “belief” that “tens of millions of Americans are going to lose their policies next year and the year after.”

Boehner knew he was in trouble when a journalist asked him about ACA, and he changed the subject to “jobs”—another area that the GOP is notoriously bad in addressing. He tries to attach “Obamacare” to the shortage of employment. The GOP can’t run against affordable medical care for families, so they just declare that the ACA is responsible for every problem in the country—stagnant wages, economy, etc. There’s no connection, but the GOP is working hard to make people believe this.

Meanwhile the GOP proposes one after another story about the high costs of ACA that are consistently debunked. For example, former New Hampshire GOP chair, Fergus Cullen, a free-lance writer and owner of a private company, wrote a piece for the New Hampshire Union Leader trying to show how his premiums would increase almost 20 percent in just one year of ACA. His visit to the healthcare exchange surprised him: it was easy to use, took little time, and, most amazing, saved him over $1,000 a month. And that’s without tax credits that he may be able to get for himself, his wife, and his three children.

Anyone saving this much money might be grateful and clarify the misinformation that he passed onto the public, but not Cullen. He proceeded to complain that the website knew too much about him. The ACA exchanges use the same technology that credit agencies use to provide instant credit approval—like Target that suffered information breeches for about 40 percent of the people in the United States.  If he’s shocked by the information now, wait until he signs up for Medicare and Social Security.

The fake stories about the excessive premium costs from Koch-financed Americans for Prosperity are disappearing and replaced by more vague statements. But that change, there was Wanda of Marion, Arkansas, featured front and center in $700,000 of ads. At least Wanda’s complaint about a cancellation from Blue Cross Blue Shield was more moderate than the Michigan ad falsely stating that ACA endangers the lives of cancer patients.

Not one person in Arkansas is having a private health care plan canceled. That’s because the state’s insurance providers follow federal guidelines allowing people with non-compliant plans to stay them until October 2017. Only the 100,000 people who signed up for federally-funded Medicaid, only to have the state reverse its decision to take the money, lost their health care. Only the state has cancelled anyone’s plans because they refused the ACA.

People who really care about saving money on health care would vote for universal health care, a plan promoted by the conservatives two decades ago. People in the U.S. spend an average of $8,233 a year. That’s more than two and a half times more than in most developed countries throughout the world, including France, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.

Yet the U.S. has lower life expectancy and higher infant mortality than most high-income countries. People in this country are less healthy during their entire lives than people in 16 other wealthy nations. Each year it gets worse as the gap widens.

The ACA, which conservatives accuse of being “socialist,” still leaves private companies in control for those without Medicare, Veterans Care, or Medicaid, companies making more money through administrative costs and profit. A comparison of access to care, quality of care, and costs found all three are superior in Canada as compared to the United States. The U.S. pays an average of 31 percent for administrative costs; Canada pays 1.3 percent, not counting costs for private supplemental plans available to Canadians. Denmark’s administrative costs are 4.3 percent of total health care spending.

Private companies are those with staff to determine whether medical care, sometimes a matter of life and death, should be provided. Medicare, a government controlled health insurance, doesn’t do this.

Leave it to Jon Stewart to show how bad health care is in the United States.  The Daily Show is billed as a comedy show, but its interviews inexplicably succeed in uncovering the truth. A classic example is Aasif Mandvi’s interview of Fox commentator Todd Wilemon that left the conservative speechless.

Wilemon begins with the standard conservative argument:

 “The U.S. healthcare system is the best in the world. But now with Obamacare our choices have been limited. You know, people are going to be seeing this cost more. I am getting less. I am not going to be happy.”

Wilemon described a worst-case scenario:

“We have longer lines. You may have to bring your own sheets. In Russia they reuse syringes. The scenario where we could slip into Third World status would be slow, probably.”

Mandvi travels with founder of Remote Area Medical (RAM) Stan Brock, to find one of these horrible Third World places where people receive free medical services because they cannot afford healthcare. Together they find a location with shockingly poor health care, still reeling from Civil War and suffering high rates of cancer and heart disease. One-fourth of the people live in poverty. He describes these conditions to Wilemon who said:

“This is how bad it could get. If we keep going down the path of more government control, less innovation. I don’t know if we can be that place unless a great catastrophe happens in this country.”

The speechless part came when Mandvi explained that he had gone with Brock to Knoxville (TN). About 90 percent of RAM work is in the United States because of the dire conditions in this country. The speechless part lasts for 13 seconds before Wilemon came up with his answer: “If you are poor, stop being poor.” Check out the entire clip here.

The U.S. ranks 37th in the world in health care. The conservatives want to put it lower.


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