Muftic: Buyer beware of GOP promises
October 5, 2010
A beautifully produced TV ad is making the Republican pitch in a calm, a honey-coated voice that closes with an exhortation for a “smaller, more caring government … one that cares about us.” Lovely. Buyer beware.
“Us” also means “consumers” since we all wear that hat, too. “Caring about us?” Republicans offer to retrofit our consumer protections with a bunch of inadequacies ranging from none to some at best – questionably funded.
Whatever Republicans promise or pledge will leave large numbers of consumers unprotected.
Above all, the Republicans’ pledge to repeal and replace Obamacare would still leave 27 million consumers out in the cold. The nonpartisan Office of Management and Budget was clear that none of the Republican replacement proposals would be sufficient to provide affordable insurance to 27 million people unable to afford coverage now. They would still be seeking care in emergency rooms and charity medicine with high costs passed on to consumers in higher premiums. The Republican pledge ignores Obama care prevention elements for mammograms, colonoscopies and prostate cancer screenings or leaving such preventative measures unaffordable for those without coverage or with high deductibles.
Fear being laid off? You’ll love relying on unaffordable COBRA again. Obamacare before 2014 will provide insurance choices of competing private plans and subsidies based on income levels to the uninsured.
Republicans pledge to keep some popular Obamacare consumer protections that would prevent health insurance claims being denied because of pre-existing conditions or high deductibles and caps that leave insured in debt, and they would on keep kids on parents policies until they are 26. However, there is a large cost to insurers for such coverage. Obamacare has provided ways to pay for all of these protections, including making insurance affordable to all, without adding to the deficit. Not so with the Republican pledge.
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Republicans propose health savings accounts, which we already have in place and are useful only for those employed long enough with extra income to put into the kitty.
In that same ad Republicans claim Democrats want to Take away your choice. You will still be able to choose your doctor or hospital with Obamacare. The AMA agrees your relationship with them will not change. However, Republicans give the uninsured no choice but to go to the ER, facing bankruptcy or losing their homes to pay the bills. True. You will not be given the choice to freeload the system by going health insurance naked, but at least you will be guaranteed affordability.
Will small business be required to cover employees? Only if you have 50 or more. True: eliminated is a $400 billion windfall subsidy to private insurers to administer a Medicare program that provided no health outcome advantages. Traditional Medicare benefits will not be touched.
Most Republican candidates for November also promise to repeal Wall Street reform and not replace it. We consumers could then kiss goodbye new protections against rate hikes for existing credit card balances and excessive debit card swipe fees or providing free annual credit scores for everyone. Republicans would eliminate protection from tax funded bailouts for within reform there are provisions to wind down bank failures without crashing the economy and to prevent institutions getting “too big to fail.”
Especially targeted by Republicans for repeal will be a newly constituted consumer protection agency that is setting clear rules to hold banks, mortgage companies, payday lenders, and credit card lenders accountable.
In short, the Republican are promising to deliver a nicely packaged screw to us consumers.
– Felicia Muftic’s long career in consumer affairs has been recognized in many editions of Who’s Who in America.