On August 5 and August 12, Democratic Perspective tackled the very complicated subject of health care. We began by listing some statistics about the U.S. health care system. They’re anything but reassuring. For example:
In the U.S. we spend more than $2.7 trillion per year on health care. That represents more than $8,000 per person and almost 20 percent of GDP. The U.S. spends more than 4 times as much on health care as any other advanced nation with worse results. In addition, we spend almost as much on pharmaceuticals as all of the other nations combined.
Put another way, if the US health system was a country, it would be the 6th largest economy in the world! Yet, according to the most recent survey by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the U.S. health system ranks 37th in effectiveness as measured by lifespan and responsiveness. We rank 34th in infant mortality, 26th in number of physicians, 29th for number of doctor consultations per capita and 28th for number of hospital beds per capita.
The skyrocketing cost of health care in the U.S. is being felt in virtually every aspect of our economy.
According to a report by United States Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. companies faced with higher health care costs reduce investments, raise prices, and lower employment. High health care costs also reduce the competitiveness of US firms in international markets. And workers who bear the cost of higher health care spending have less income to spend on other goods and services.
In fact, a report published in The American Journal of Medicine listed medical bills as a major factor in more than 60 percent of the personal bankruptcies in the United States. Amazingly, approximately 75 percent of those bankruptcies involved individuals that actually did have health insurance! About the only ones who aren’t suffering as a result of rising health care costs are health insurance companies, their executives and their lobbyists.
In 2009, at the height of the Great Recession, U.S. health insurance companies increased profits by 56 percent, ending the year with a combined profit of $12.2 billion. That same year, the top executives at the five largest for-profit health insurance companies in the United States combined to receive nearly $200 million in total compensation.
In 2010, the chairman of Aetna, the third largest health insurance company in the United States, brought home $68.7 million. And the CEO of United Health Group received $48.83 million in 2012, ranking eighth on Forbes’ list. Meanwhile, health care related businesses have spent $5.36 billion since 1998 on lobbying in Washington.
From all of this, it should be abundantly clear why something had to be done about our health care industry. That something is the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare.
In most respects, Obamacare was the brainchild of the very conservative Heritage Foundation. It was first promoted during the 1996 presidential election by GOP candidate, Sen. Bob Dole as an alternative to the single-payer system that President Clinton had proposed early in his first term. An almost identical system was signed into law in Massachusetts by then Governor Mitt Romney.
Known as Romneycare, the Massachusetts system has seen employer-supported health coverage increase over the past 7 years. And a poll by WBUR, an NPR-affiliate in Boston, found that 62 percent of Massachusetts residents support Romneycare, while just 33 percent oppose it.
Obamacare is certainly not perfect, but it is a giant step in the right direction. Already, under Obamacare, lifetime limits on insurance coverage have been eliminated helping more than 105 million Americans. 3.1 million young adults under age 26 have gained insurance by being allowed to stay on their parents’ plans.
Obamacare has recovered $10.7 billion in Medicare fraud over the past 3 years. It has helped more than 6.3 million people on Medicare save $6.1 billion on prescription drugs since 2010 and, over the next 10 years, people with Medicare who hit the so-called prescription donut hole will save an average of more than $16,000. An estimated 34.1 million people with Medicare have received one or more free preventive service. Additionally, prevention coverage improved for approximately 54 million Americans through their private health insurance plans.
For the first time ever, insurance companies are required to justify increases in rates of 10 percent or more. 12.8 million Americans have already received a total of $1.1 billion in rebates from private insurers that failed to spend at least 80 percent of their premiums on healthcare. Finally, the life of the Medicare Trust Fund will be extended to at least 2024.
But that’s not the whole story.
CNNMoney reported that under Obamacare, insurance premiums in New York will drop by 50 percent. And Forbes Magazine reported that under Obamacare, Californians were in for a rate shock because premiums are a good deal less expensive than expected.
And contrary to the myths being perpetuated by the GOP, Obamacare will not use tax dollars to fund abortions. It will not lead to a government takeover of healthcare. Instead, it strengthens the existing employer-based health insurance market while making the market fair for consumers by implementing landmark consumer protections.
As previously noted, Obamacare will not raise the cost of healthcare insurance. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) found that health insurance reform will reduce the deficit by $210 billion in this decade and by more than $1 trillion over 10 years.
Obamacare will not make businesses suffer. The CBO found that it will lower health insurance premiums for the same insurance plan by up to 4 percent for small businesses and 3 percent for large businesses. (Estimates indicate that reform could save businesses $2,000 per person in health costs.) Obamacare will not cause employers to stop offering insurance to their workers, either. As already noted, under a similar system in Massachusetts, the percent of businesses offering insurance has increased.
Finally, Obamacare will not pay for healthcare for undocumented immigrants and it will not use taxpayer money to pay for abortions.
Want to learn more? Check out the March 4, 2013 Time Magazine cover article entitled “Bitter Pill” and the documentary “Escape Fire” which recently appeared on CNN. Or check out any of the following links:
CORRECTION: On the August 12 show, my memory failed me. I not only erroneously labeled Sen. Ben Nelson from Nebraska a Republican (He’s a Democrat). I said that he voted against the ACA (He in fact, provided the 60th vote after an amendment was added giving more Medicaid dollars to Nebraska. That provision did not become part of the final bill.) My apology for the errors.