Affordable Care Act facts vs. tea party lies — the gulf between

Medical professionals’ knowledge vs. tea party hallucinations about Obamacare

I get an absolutely ridiculous amount of email every day and a goodly amount of it comes from folks recommending things for me to write about or from one of the various organizations that I subscribe to. I also subscribe to some right wing groups, just so I can get a pulse on what they are going on about at any given time.

This past week I received two emails that were essentially about the same thing. One pointed me to an amazing interview of two medical professionals by my dear friend Betsy de Parry. In it, they talk about the Affordable Care Act (ACA or “Obamacare”) and what it really means to Americans.

The other was yet another freakout passel of lies and fabrications about the ACA from the Tea Party of West Michigan.

The two emails could not have been in starker contrast.

I won’t copy the entire email from the tea party group. It’s pretty hard to take and is almost entirely a cut-and-paste job from the Heritage Center and other far-right groups out to destroy the Obama presidency. The main thrust of the email is to ensure that Michigan does NOT form it’s own health insurance exchange (I have written about this self-defeating approach by the tea party HERE.)

All through this I talk about ObamaCare. It’s really called the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. It’s just easier to call it ObamaCare. Also the Exchange bill is what will set up the very limited insurance plans totally controlled by the federal government that we in Michigan will be allowed to choose from. {…}

They are saying the federal government will step in with their own exchange if our legislators don’t write one. If you watched the videos or read the articles I and others have posted on this by CATO, Heritage and other “think tanks” they don’t think the federal government can write an exchange because they either forgot to fund themselves to write them for the states or they took a calculated risk that the states would just fall in line and write them under threat of losing their medicaid and medicare funding. So there is no funding in ObamaCare for the feds to write these exchanges for the states. The more states that refuse (I think we’re at 26 states), the more likely our chance is to kill it this way. This is state sovereignty in action. This is the proper role of our most wonderful constitution the way it was meant to be. The tenth amendment is protecting us. By the way the threat to take our medicare and medicaid funding away was taken away by Justice Robert’s ruling. I didn’t like his ruling but at least he did that much for us. {…}

Also, trying to say that you will be able to comparison shop for private health insurance is misleading. We were lobbying the day we saw a couple of the largest Michigan insurance companies urging the legislators to write this exchange and the sooner the better. Why? I believe the largest three or four companies will lower their prices so low as to take losses for the first few years just to take out all the smaller companies. Once they are gone all pretense of a free market will be gone. I also seem to recall that there will really only be 4 plans to choose from and they will be dictated by the feds. So it will be cookie cutter health insurance controlled by Health and Human Services. Your insurance will cover people and services you do not want and won’t cover the things you really need as it will be one of four options for all. It’s going to cost way more than we pay now in my view also. So we’ll have worse coverage and less choices. This just scratches the surface of what is really wrong with this socialistic utopia Obama is trying to give to us. {…}

           “Nearly 1.3 million residents — about 13 percent of Michigan’s population — are uninsured.”

I don’t know where they get this number and it may actually be true but early on when Obama first started spouting about the fact that so many American’s do not have health care it was pointed out that many of these are young people first starting out who feel invincible so they don’t care to have health insurance. Also, counted in these numbers are sometimes illegals. They get emergency care in many emergency rooms in the country today. Also people transitioning between jobs may be without health care for a few weeks and counted in this number.

One more thing about this. Our Governor and Michigan Senate are trying to say that if we write this exchange we will have some control. Well, first of all, if you believe that, I’ve got some swamp land… well you get my drift.

Contrast this with the reality we get from the de Parry article:

There are no simple answers to anything as complex as health care, but those who are on the front lines are best qualified to provide accurate insight. Dr. Ora Pescovitz and Rob Casalou are on those front lines, navigating the challenges of providing and improving our care every day.

Dr. Pescovitz is the CEO of the University of Michigan Health System (UMHS), which treated 1.8 million people in an outpatient basis and 45,000 people in the hospital last year.

Mr. Casalou is President and CEO of Saint Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor and Livingston hospitals (SJMHS), which are part of Trinity Health, the 10th largest health care system and the 4th largest Catholic health care system in the country, by total number of hospitals (49 in 10 states) and total bed count, respectively. {…}

Q. How – or will – the ACA change our relationships with our doctors?

Mr. Casalou: Our relationship with our doctors continues to change because of the laws of economics and not the laws created by our government. The fact is that our country cannot sustain the costs of the health care system as it is structured today.

The idea of managing populations and trying to reduce costly care is not because of the ACA, it is because of economic reality. {…}

Dr. Pescovitz: One of the big things that the ACA emphasizes is quality of care — are doctors and their teams doing everything for patients that we know is proven to work and that can keep people healthy? And, it’s tying payment to performance on quality measures and patient satisfaction. This is a big change for our industry and, quite frankly, one that is a long time coming. {…}

One of the reasons health care spending is so out of control is that, as a nation, we don’t do a good job on the preventive side of care and, as a result, people develop preventable chronic conditions that are costly to their health and to the health care system. {…}

Q. Because the ACA gives millions more people access to health care, there is speculation that the influx of new patients will strain the system beyond capacity. What assurance, if any, can you give patients that waiting for months to see doctors won’t be the norm?

Mr. Casalou: First, we believe creating the ability for all people to access care is a good thing. We also need to remember that many of the current uninsured patients in our community do access care and use the health care system now. Many pay out of pocket for their health care, and we and other hospitals currently write off all or part of medical bills for the uninsured.

So, while there will be more patients accessing care, not all the newly insured will be incremental to our health care system. {…}

We do not anticipate longer wait lists or lower quality in the care of patients as a result of increasing demand. {…}

Q. There is speculation that the ACA is driving doctors who are currently practicing out of medicine and that it will drive the best and the brightest young people to professions other than medicine, which, of course, will mean fewer doctors to treat more people. Are you seeing any evidence of this?

Dr. Pescovitz: I interact with faculty, residents, medical students and community physicians from all over the country all the time, and we all share a common drive to help people get better and live more productive and fulfilling lives. Whether we do that as physicians delivering care, scientists developing treatments or faculty teaching future generations of physician-scientists, it is part of our core. I don’t think that has changed or will change. Medicine remains one of the most rewarding and sacred professions.

I don’t think the ACA is driving people away from medicine. It would be premature to draw such a conclusion. Actually, more young people are applying to medical school than ever before — 7,000 more nationwide last year compared with a decade ago! {…}

Q. We’ve seen drug shortages as recently as a few months ago. Won’t this only get worse as millions of new people enter the system? How is this possibility being addressed?

Mr. Casalou: The other way to look at this question is to say that if we have millions of people who are not receiving adequate care, including medications, isn’t it incumbent on us to build the capacity to meet the demand? Wouldn’t any other manufacturing or service industry do the same?

Betsy’s piece is fantastic and I highly recommend that you read the entire interview. She has done us a great service by bringing out the truth, as seen from people who sit on the front lines of delivering medical care to our community, of the new health insurance reform law that is now the constitutional law of the land.

I will give the Republicans and the far right conservatives credit for one thing: never in my life have I seen something so thoroughly and completely misrepresented and so effectively insinuated into the American psyche. I realize that the people who most need to hear this message are those least likely to see it or, frankly, even willing to listen to a rational argument objectively.

Hopefully, progressives will learn a hard and important lesson from this about protecting our gains once we have achieved them.

We can’t afford to lose battles like this. People’s lives are literally on the line.

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  • Betsy de Parry

    Thanks for sharing my article and helping to separate lies from facts. I hope that people will read the link to the entire article as they will learn that health care systems were making changes well before the ACA was even a thought. And as a cancer survivor and active advocate for cancer patients, I talk to people all the time who are dealing with the disease and I can most assuredly tell you that we need the ACA to protect us – as do people will all conditions, the uninsured, etc. Your last line gave me a cold chill. Many lives are indeed on the line.

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