Obamacare is the law of the land and it’s here to stay. That is one of the small points made in a lecture I attended yesterday from the Institute of Humane Studies held at Clemson University. The panel brought together four interesting individuals, some liberal, some conservative, some libertarian–all with different backgrounds and different fields. One worked as a Public Health Administrative, one an Emergency Room Doctor, one for the Center for American Progress and the last for the Insurance Commission in South Carolina. Some argued we need the government to fix health care and some argued we only need the Altogether it was an excellent forum to here many different opinions.
The Obamacare discussion occurred in my classroom this week as well, with my mother on the phone and even for nearly two hours on some carry-over points from last night’s forum with a colleague whose office is across the hall. (He researches on health care efficiency and I thoroughly enjoyed what he had to say. Some of his points influenced what I am about to say as well.) The Obamacare debate is also probably one that you see politicians bicker about on a daily basis and perhaps even one that you may have argued for or against. I am not trying to argue about what is right or wrong. I am here to talk about 3 basic truth’s behind health care reform and what individuals, from either side of the political spectrum, DO agree on.
1. The system was broken before the law was passed. The Affordable Care Act, or what been dubbed Obamacare, is a law that actually was passed in 2010. There is a lot of stir in recent months because some parts of the law are just now being phased in. Few individuals truly feel that this act will solve all of our problems, but the prior system to 2009 was not good. However, “we all [can] agree what we’d like to see: Health care needs to become efficient, innovative, and provide high quality care at reasonable cost,” John Cochrane, Professor of Finance at the University of Chicago. This act may NOT make things more efficient or less costly, and some may argue it will make it worse, but one thing we can agree upon is that the system was broken and we need a lower cost, more efficient system. What we disagree on is how we get to that point, what we we agree upon is that we need to get to that point.
2. Either President Obama lied and said individuals who had private plans could keep their insurance plans OR his economists lied to him. Basic economics will tell you that when you add a constraint to a problem (i.e. a government regulation that says you cannot drop those who have pre-existing conditions or you cannot screen against them) then the entire problem changes. If a private corporation is going to take on more sickly people or at least those with a higher probability of being sick, their entire business model must change in order to make profit and stay in business. This means that some costlier plans that private insurers previously offered may get cut or premiums must increase for the healthy to cover the potential, and likely, outpour of dollars to cover those with pre-existing conditions. In some cases, both happened. Although I am not sure who lied to whom initially, I am less inclined to believe that President Obama lied to the American people so openly. This is not to say that politicians do not lie, this is more to say that his entire presidential legacy rests on Obamacare. Openly lying about something that cost millions of Americans their insurance plans is detrimental to his career. Rather, I think his economists, who are educated in some of the best economic institutions in the world, lied to him to please the Democratic party. President Obama was just the one who delivered the false information. (Don’t kill the messenger?)
3. Both sides will not agree on health care reform. Plain and simple, both sides see two different solutions to the problem. A more libertarian argument may suggest that government interference has caused prices to rise in the health care industry. More government regulation and interference causes these prices to rise higher than they would if the private market was allowed to just compete together. An example of a proposed solution would be to have no employer insurance and no government insurance, just individuals buying their own plan. The hope would be that this would cause costs to decrease, increased competition and better health care efficiency. A more liberal argument would suggest that the government should be the only provider of health care, which would equalize all forms of treatment and services. This will allow those with pre-existing conditions to have the same care at the same cost to those who are healthy. The hope would be that this causes costs to decrease, less competition and better health care efficiency. There are also solutions that many favor that are less extreme to either end or solutions that are a hybrid private and public solution. Regardless, both sides believe there are different means to come to the same end. Both sides do not agree. This is not to say that there can not be compromise, but to get full support of one solution is near impossible. Let’s stop trying to pretend that there is ONE golden solution we all will agree on.
In sum, the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land. Will it solve all of our problems? Only time will tell. I am less inclined to think that it is the be-all-end-all fix to health care reform, but a movement to start discussing BETTER ways to cut costs and make health care more efficient. Although everyone can disagree on the BEST solution to fix the problem, the three things we all can agree on is that the health care system was broken before, both sides will not agree on one solution, and there was no way it made financial sense for private insurance companies to keep old plans in face of the new ACA regulation. (Unless of course, there is executive order and a government promise to pay for the losses if private insurance companies reinstate old plans. However, this is another issue that A.K. will touch upon in a post later this week. ) In the meantime, listen to other’s opinions on health care reform and continue to educate yourself. This debate is far from over and as more possible solutions are thrown around you want to understand why it may work and why it may not. My colleague, Richard Gearhart, enlightened me to one proposed solution where we are given health care insurance when we are born and can “opt out” of health care starting at age 26 and private health savings accounts can be carried over year to year. The poor would get private health savings accounts with a fixed amount of gov’t money per year, which would eliminate a need for Medicaid and some other hotly contested welfare programs. His solution is a private and public one. I’m not saying I’m convinced (or ever will be), but health care reform is not over.
To show you the strong debate between both sides and how one golden solution is near impossible, here are some blogs on Obamacare:
- Forget the ACA. We Need Real Health-Care Reform. (blogs.wsj.com)
- Obama’s Legacy: More Americans than Ever Reject Government Role in Health Care (heritage.org)
- Survey: Docs don’t like Obamacare (bizjournals.com)
- No One Died at Healthcare.gov: The Phony Crisis of Obamacare (cepr.net)