Let’s have a better healthcare plan

Published 9:13 am Wednesday, May 10, 2017

By Dr. Ramzi Dakour

Something extraordinary happened last week in the House of Representatives when the Affordable Health Care Act (AHCA) bill was passed by just two votes, but in a way it was no different than what we’ve been accustomed to.
Politicians were willing to push aside the needs and wants of their constituency in order to cast a vote on purely political grounds.
It did not matter that version 2.0 of the AHCA went even further to take away protections from millions of vulnerable Americans than it’s beta-version, despite the predecessor only having 17 percent support from the general public.
It did not matter that most Americans wanted to actually keep Obamacare and fix it (61 percent) vs. repeal and replace it (37 percent).
The only thing that seemed to matter to this newly empowered group of far-right extremist Republicans was that they hold strong to an ideological position that healthcare is just another commodity to be bought and sold and that the free market is the real cure-all.
If people actually get hurt in the process, which they will if anything close to this bill ever gets signed into law, that’s the price that our politicians are happy to pay.
When I say “our politicians,” I do mean Republican Representatives Randy Weber (TX-14) and Brian Babin (TX-36). Rep. Weber doesn’t believe that anyone in his district would lose health insurance under the current AHCA, nor does he believe that any of their premiums would go up.
This is quite an astounding position to take given that the non-partisan CBO scored the original AHCA and concluded that 24 million people would lose health insurance and that premiums would go up for many, especially older and sicker Americans.
This was before the bill went even further toward stripping away insurance protections, giving states the power to allow insurance companies to charge much higher premiums to people with pre-existing conditions and to dilute the services they actually cover.
Given that the CBO’s report has been public knowledge for nearly two months and that just about every healthcare advocacy group (American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, AARP, March of Dimes to name a few) spoke out against the AHCA and it’s potential for real harm, we are left with little choice on what to surmise about the judgement of our Representatives. Either they value their “alternative facts” more than the real ones, or they are willing to lie to their constituents about what they voted for and why they voted for it.
But, here’s the good news.
First, there is no chance that anything resembling the House version of AHCA will be passed in the Senate, much less brought to a vote.
Second, come November 2018, we the people will have the opportunity to hold our representatives accountable for their reckless decisions and vote them out of office.
You only have to look back as far as 2010, when Tea Party candidates rode a wave of populist frustration to take control of Congress, to see where this has the potential to go.
Third, there is a solution to this whole healthcare mess, and even President Trump thinks it’s great! (See his conversation with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, last week).
That solution is our oft-misunderstood, unfairly maligned friend, single-payer universal healthcare. Let me leave you with a few thoughts.
The United States is one of the only major, industrialized countries in the world not to have universal healthcare, even though we are definitely the richest.
The limited version we do have, Medicare and Medicaid, are actually more cost-efficient than private insurance. Yes, you read that correctly. The rate of rise in healthcare expenditures is significantly lower for Medicare and Medicaid than it is for private insurance, even though the former tends to insure higher-risk patients.
The Commonwealth Fund found the US to rank dead last amongst a group of 11 industrialized nations (including Australia) in healthcare efficiency and in the middle of the pack on healthcare outcomes.
Who ranked first?
The United Kingdom, which has single-payer universal healthcare. We need to start coming around to the idea that healthcare is a human right, not a commodity and not a political poker chip.
I think most Americans really believe this to be the case.
We can start the process by kicking out our oblivious representatives from the halls of Congress, not 24 million people from the rolls of health insurance.

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