Sunday, October 21, 2012

NYT: Romney Is Twisting the Facts About Healthcare

As longer term readers of this blog know, I have long been an advocate of sweeping health care reform.  In fact, I believe that a nationalized program akin to that of France or Canada  is the only real solution for most Americans.  Why do I feel this way?  First, having had a child who was stricken with a horrific illness, I know first hand how families with supposedly good or even excellent insurance coverage can still be wiped out financially.  Second, some years back, I worked for a law firm that represented a healthcare/hospital entity and I was appalled that delivering top level heath care was way down the priority list.  Instead, building monopolies and tying doctor groups to hospitals were the real priority.  And as for keeping costs down for patients, the concept never ever crept into the conversation.  The health care industry will not voluntarily reform itself and while doctors constantly plead poverty, they make more than just about any other segment of the population.  How does this figure into the presidential elections?  Because Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan basically want to dismantle protections for the majority and allow the healthcare industry to run amok The New York Times looks at the Romney/Ryan myths and would be plans for health care.  It ought to scare the daylights out of anyone not sitting on vast amounts of family wealth. Here are excerpts:

The outcome of the presidential election will determine which of two opposing paths the nation will follow on health care for all Americans. If voters re-elect President Obama, he will protect the health care reforms that are his signature domestic achievement. If they elect Mitt Romney, they will be choosing a man who has pledged to repeal the reform law and replace it with — who knows what?  .  .  .  . Almost nothing the Republican candidates say on these or other health care issues can be taken at face value. Here are some of their bigger evasions: 

REPLACING OBAMACARE Although Mr. Romney has said he wants to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act, he has provided few details on what he would replace it with. When challenged to do so at the first presidential debate, Mr. Romney never quite answered and made some egregious misstatements along the way, some of which were repeated by Mr. Ryan in the vice-presidential debate.  .  .  .  He continues to assert that his plan would cover people with pre-existing conditions when it clearly would not.

A major goal of the law was to cover some 30 million more people by expanding Medicaid and subsidizing coverage for middle-income people. That goal would be lost if the law was repealed. The Republicans, of course, have no plans for covering the uninsured beyond assuming they can use emergency rooms, leaving the problem to the states. 

MEDICARE Mr. Romney has misrepresented what would happen to both current beneficiaries and future generations under his proposals. He says his plans would have no effect on people now on Medicare or nearing eligibility. But if he succeeded in repealing the reform law, which has many provisions that hold down costs for Medicare enrollees, most beneficiaries would see their annual premiums and cost-sharing go up. The average beneficiary in traditional Medicare would pay about $5,000 more through 2022, and heavy users of prescription drugs about $18,000 more over the same period, if the act is repealed, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Department of Health and Human Services.

For future generations, the Romney-Ryan ticket would turn Medicare into a premium-support — or voucher — program in which the federal government provides a fixed amount of money to beneficiaries each year and allows it to grow by a small amount annually, which may not keep pace with medical costs. The whole point of turning to vouchers is to reduce federal spending on Medicare, so it seems likely that many beneficiaries would end up worse off than now. 

Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan insist that the magic of competition among health insurers — both private plans and a public option like Medicare — will bring down premiums. But if competition fails to do that, beneficiaries would almost certainly get socked with added payments or fewer benefits. 

MEDICAID The Republicans want to repeal the reform law’s expansion of Medicaid to cover millions of low- and middle-income people and instead shrink federal funding by turning Medicaid into a block grant. States would be given a fixed amount of money equal to what they had been getting in federal payments for Medicaid, and that grant would then grow at a rate tied to inflation. If those increases failed to keep up with medical costs, states — faced with the necessity of balancing their budgets every year — would probably have to cut enrollments or benefits or payments to providers. That could include cuts to coverage for long-term and nursing home care that millions depend on.

Of course, it one is from a family of wealth and privilege like Messrs. Romney and Ryan, none of this is a concern since one can merely fall back on family money to secure needed health care.  Most of us are not that lucky and could easily find ourselves having to chose between eating and having a roof over our heads or receiving needed treatments and prescriptions.  Truth be told, Romney and Ryan do not give a flying f*ck about most Americans.  We heard it from Romney's own lips when he condemned 47% as moochers and parasites.

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