Muftic column: Hard to pull plug on Obamacare
March 2, 2017
Crowd chanting and party platforms cheered on GOP candidates to support repeal of Obamacare in 2016. Now that the GOP controls both the White House and Congress, they are finding themselves on the receiving end of a consumer revolt. Twenty million are suddenly realizing they may lose high-quality health insurance they can afford for the first time in years. The chants of audiences at the rowdy town halls are instead "don't take away my insurance."
Donald Trump calls the town hall attendees a small, noisy minority of paid activists. The GOP and he are fooling themselves. Take a look at the polls. Those angry attendees represent the majority opinion. Obamacare for the first time is polling more popular than not.
Where were these defenders of Obamacare last November? They were lulled and fooled. They awoke in January/February thanks to the marches and rowdy town halls. They had been soothed by promises of some in the GOP, and especially Donald Trump, that the health care law would be replaced with something "better."
Others were dreaming for single payer systems. Ignorance also shaped public opinion. Thirty-five percent of Americans polled did not know Obamacare and the ACA were one in the same and are just learning their newly acquired insurance they may lose was indeed Obamacare.
Many of GOP plans in formation now would eliminate subsidies that make the plans affordable for those in the lower middle class, and even eliminate medicaid expansion, taking away insurance from those who cannot afford to pay even minimum premiums.
What polls do show is that "mandates" are what most voters want repealed. "Mandate " is a turn-off term. For most that means to eliminate requirements all must carry health insurance or face a penalty. But "benefit" is a nicer word and the GOP wants to call "benefits" mandates, too. Those nasty mandates are benefits required by the ACA to be included in all insurance plans, whether individually bought, employer-provided, subsidized through the exchanges and Medicare and Medicaid. They include: low co-pay annual physicals, and cancer screenings for both sexes such as mammograms and colonoscopies, banning life time limits, and providing pre-natal care. The GOP wants to make these benefits optional in the name of being "patient centered."
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Unfortunately those "mandates/benefits" are what makes the ACA affordable because it keeps the "pool" large enough so that those who do not use or need all of benefits now or in the future pay for those who do. The larger the pool, the lower the cost for all — an actuarial fact.
The GOP has challenges replacing the ACA. They will have to show that the costs to the federal budget will be less than is the ACA. Cutting benefits and to take away insurance from many who have it now will be an unpopular political option. The hottest political backfire will happen in the states Trump carried in 2016. 64% of the 2017 ACA subscribers are in those states. GOP governors are protesting repeal, too, since abandoning Medicaid expansion would seriously dent their budgets. Rural hospitals would lose paying customers and close their doors. Miners would lose black lung coverage. Jobs would be lost in the health care sector. The GOP has grabbed a political tiger by its tail.
For sources and polls, visit Mufticforumblog.blogspot.com.