Rx for American voters

Rx for American voters

September 30th, 2012 in Opinion Times

Working Americans haven't really gotten to know the immense benefits of the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as ObamaCare. That's because its most essential benefits -- guaranteed, flat-rate, comprehensive and affordable health care insurance for all comers, plus expanded Medicare coverage for seniors -- won't be fully implemented until January 2014.

Thus many do not yet value the guarantee of secure, affordable coverage for themselves or their loved ones come what may -- job layoffs, catastrophic illnesses or accidents, crippling disability or loss of a breadwinner and insurance anchor. Nor are most citizens conditioned to consider the job mobility, economic opportunities, potential early retirement, or the elimination of the threat of medical bankruptcy -- the leading cause of personal bankruptcy -- or needless premature death or that would come with secure, affordable health insurance options.

Yet if they recognized the immense values of ObamaCare vs. a return to the old status quo of declining access to affordable comprehensive coverage under unregulated medical industry standards, they would vote hands down to keep ObamaCare intact and on track. They certainly would not vote for RomneyCandidateCare.

To illustrate the differences, Families USA, a widely acclaimed advocate of health care reform since 1982, released Thursday a carefully detailed analysis of the differences of ObamaCare versus both the original RomneyCare implemented in 2006 by then-Gov. Mitt Romney in Massachusetts, and the stripped-down and distinctly different plan now offered by Romney as the presidential candidate.

The first two are reasonably comparable. But they are a world apart from the shelled plan that Romney now proposes to install if he is elected president. (Readers may access the full analysis online at http://www.familiesusac4.org/2012-health-care-comparison/key-findings.html)

ObamaCare improved on the original Massachusetts RomneyCare plan, which Romney himself now strangely denounces. For example, the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) raised the age that children could remain on their parents' plan to 26. It eliminated lifetime limits on insurance coverage, and increased sliding-scale tax-credit subsidies for insurance to working families with incomes up to four-times the poverty level. (The poverty level for a family of four is $23,050; for a single individual, it's $11,170.) This wage-adjusted subsidy assures significant assistance for the purchase of comprehensive, flat-rate insurance to all working families that now do not have, or cannot afford, employer-based insurance.

The huge differences found in Families USA comparisons of ObamaCare and RomneyCandidateCare, however, are profound:

• Average tax credit subsidies for the purchase of health care under ObamaCare would nearly double those that Romney now proposes ($4,231 vs. $2,490).

• In the absence of health care reform, an estimated 56 million Americans would be uninsured by 2016. ObamaCare would reduce the number of uninsured Americans (those who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but who cannot afford, or qualify for, private insurance) by 30.7 million by 2016, leaving nearly 26 million uninsured. RomneyCandidateCare, by contrast, would leave 41.9 million uninsured by 2016. By 2022, the differential between the ObamaCare and RomneyCandidateCare would be 50.9 million left uninsured, with a total of 78 million uninsured under Romney's plan.

There are plenty of other things RomneyCandidateCare would not do that ObamaCare is doing or would do by January 2014:

• RomneyCandidateCare would not eliminate pre-existing condition exclusions, or higher variable premiums for sicker or older Americans, or higher premiums for women, or deductibles and copays for preventive care. It would not allow adult children to stay on their parents' insurance. It would not give tax credits to employers for providing insurance to workers. It would not create new marketplace insurance exchanges.

ObamaCare does all these things.

• RomneyCandidateCare would not ban annual or lifetime limits on coverage. It would not require insurers to spend at least at least 80 percent of customer's insurance premiums on actual care, nor would it limit out-of-pocket annual spending, nor would it require preventive care without copayments.

ObamaCare makes all these improvements.

• RomneyCandidateCare would not provide subsidies on a sliding scale based on income to families to help them purchase insurance. It would not increase federal support to states for health-care coverage; In fact, it would decrease such current help. RomneyCandidateCare would not protect coverage for low-income; nor for coverage for long-term care.

ObamaCare would do all these things.

For seniors and other Medicare beneficiaries, the Families USA study notes, ObamaCare provisions: eliminate deductibles and copays for preventive services, including colonoscopies and mammograms; provide 50 percent discounts on prescription drug costs; close the prescription drug "doughnut" hole by 2020; protect Medicare's guarantee of benefits; fund efforts to improve cost and quality of Medicare; and extend the life of the Medicare trust fund by eight years.

RomneyCandidateCare would reverse all these Medicare provisions, resume charges for preventive services, and convert Medicare to voucher shopping for Americans under 55.

The Families USA's analysis clearly shows, as executive director Ron Pollack puts it, that "under RomneyCandidateCare, middle-class families would pay comparatively much more out of pocket for their health care, and that the number of uninsured Americans would skyrocket."

Throw in the dismantling of Medicare, and it's hard to believe that voters could be conned into returning to the greedy clutches of an industry-controlled health care system from which the nation is poised -- at long, long last -- to escape.