McClellan: Is Obamacare the end of affordable medical care, or the beginning? - East Valley Tribune: Columnists

McClellan: Is Obamacare the end of affordable medical care, or the beginning?

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Mike McClellan is a Gilbert resident and former English teacher at Dobson High School in Mesa.

Posted: Saturday, August 3, 2013 11:17 am

For its supporters, the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) is a major step towards reining in health care costs. The theory is that with more people insured, medical costs will actually drop, because insurance companies will be competing for a larger pool of customers, and the newly insured will obtain better care earlier on when illness hits, prior to the more expensive procedures might otherwise be needed.

At least that’s the theory. The Congressional Budget Office has one estimate that Obamacare will lower the deficits and provide more jobs throughout the country. At the same time, the costs for it will be more than originally estimated. And in many states that have already implemented the insurance pools, individual health insurance plans have lowered their rates.

Opponents have a different view. Some claim that Obamacare will be a federal takeover of 1/5 of the economy. That the program will result in worse care, particularly for the elderly. That costs will rise because newly-legalized illegal immigrants will be a part of Obamacare. That Obamacare is a budget buster.

House opponents have voted 40 times this term to “defund” Obamacare; others have argued that a government shutdown will at least temporarily stop the funding (though today, Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma noted that the funding already exists for this fiscal year, so shutting down the government won’t help).

My concern has always been this: While the expansion of coverage is noble and in theory somewhat economical, the focus of health care reform on expansion rather than cost containment was mistaken. Regardless of the potential cost cuts Obamacare might lead to, it’s nibbling around the edges.

We have great health care — for those who can afford it, that is. But while our medicine is fantastic, it’s also fantastically expensive in comparison to countries with similar quality. So the President — when he had the chance in his first term — should’ve looked at the explosive cost of health care in our country and focused on cost containment. There is no reason, for example, that a colonoscopy in one medical facility cost $1,200 and in a similar across town, the same procedure costs $2,000. Yet in case after case, those wildly divergent costs exist.

But the Obamacare horse is out of the barn. And with it coming online early next year, the next battle’s begun. And opponents are being led by folks who will only be preaching to the choir, mainly because these self-imposed leaders have little credibility and are given to bombastic -- and untrue -- claims.

Apparently the leader of the opposition -- the Heritage Foundation -- is funding a nine-city “Defund Obamacare” tour. Its prime speaker on the tour? Texas Ted Cruz, the first-term U.S. Senator who’s quickly gained a reputation for lies and exaggeration.

Here are the problems with the Loyal Opposition to Obamacare: Heritage Foundation, way back in 1988, actually proposed a similar plan. But times change, and so has Heritage, which now leads the battle. Its big claim is the long-term, Obamacare will add a whopping $6.2 trillion to the primary deficit. Well, not really.

That number’s based on a worst case situation as analyzed by the CBO, worst case being that the expanded coverage continues but all the cost-containment measures end. Heritage neglects to mention the rosier scenario the CBO also came up with, one that lowers that same deficit dramatically. Nor does Heritage mention that the CBO draws no conclusions as to which scenario is the more likely. No, Heritage took one estimate and made it into a fact.

Meanwhile, Texas Ted has made a career, albeit brief, of distortions, beginning with his insinuated lie about Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel taking money from Korea to his claim that the immigration bill will lead to 30 million new illegal immigrants (his spokesman later clarified that Cruz had no study to back that up, that it was only Cruz’s opinion), to his claim that illegal immigrants will either be eligible for health insurance or that because they’re not, small businessmen will want to hire them over American citizens. His record doesn’t lead to much confidence in almost anything he says.

While the supporters of Obamacare look at it through rose-colored glasses, its opponents see it as Another Sign of the Apocalypse. The reality is that we don’t know what will happen when it comes fully online. But instead of wasting time arguing about what was, why can’t our elected leaders on both sides of the aisle focus on effective and fair cost containment proposals?

I know, dumb question. For too many of our politicians, it’s easier to preen than to work.

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