Sienknecht: Obamacare will lower costs, protect users from bankruptcy

Sienknecht: Obamacare will lower costs, protect users from bankruptcy

October 5th, 2013 Dr. Charles W. Sienknecht in Opinion Columns

As a physician who has practiced medicine in Chattanooga for the past 35 years, I believe that Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act) is long overdue and that it will be good for our health.

In fact, it is already having a positive impact on health care costs. A study published in the May 30 New England Journal of Medicine documented that Obamacare's already expanded coverage for young Americans (by allowing them to stay on their parents' plan) has paid for $147 million of emergency care, costs that in the past have largely been passed on to taxpayers or to increased insurance premiums for those with coverage. In states that have already taken advantage of Obamacare to expand Medicaid enrollment, the costs born by taxpayers have decreased. Soon, with increased expansion, Obamacare benefits will increase dramatically.

There is a lot of fear-mongering and misinformation being put out by opponents of Obamacare, but these shrill voices have the ring of hypocrisy. There is nothing at stake for them, because they have health care coverage. When Senator Ted Cruz vowed to oppose Obamacare until he could no longer stand, he knew that if he did collapse and was taken to the hospital, he would have health care coverage. Yet he would deny health care coverage to others.

Obamacare is supported by many of the most respected voices in the medical community. Dr. Molly Cooke, President of the American College of Physicians (ACP), recently reaffirmed the ACPs support for Obamacare, and pointed out that "the passage of Medicare in 1965 provoked much of the same vitriol."

Fortunately most Americans have health care coverage and can rest easy, but disease can come from nowhere. It is random and unjust and financial destitution should not be one of its cruelties. I have seen this happen too often when patients develop a chronic illness, lose their job, and then are unable to obtain medical insurance. Obamacare addresses this great injustice. That there is a need for the more just health care system known as Obamacare, was demonstrated earlier this week by the overwhelming response on the first day of registration.

Dr. Charles W. Sienknecht is past president of the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Medical Society.