Felicia Muftic: Obamacare and Grand County
Welcome to Grand County, one of Colorado’s ground zeroes when it comes to the health care insurance problem.
While Colorado’s statewide average of those without insurance is 16 percent, northwest Colorado and similar rural areas have between 20 percent and 25 percent uninsured. That is one out of every four or five of us.
It is exactly our kind of community that stands to gain the most from the health care reform law so many in our area call, with contempt, “Obamacare.”
Some cold hard statistics gathered by the Colorado Health Institute were reported in the Nov. 16 Denver Post by Michael Booth. (“Number of uninsured Coloradans up 22 percent in two years, report says”).
Linda Gorman, health-policy analyst for the Independence Institute, a conservative think tank in Golden, fired back that the study seemed aimed at justifying more government health care. “The questions should be,” she was quoted in the article, “whether people are getting the medical care they need, not whether they are insured.”
Gorman could answer her own question if she climbed out of the bubble of her think tank and talked with shoppers she meets in our county’s Safeway or City Market. It would be an instructive couple of hours.
My husband is a retired physician who does our grocery shopping. While shopping, he is frequently asked for names of specialists he recommends and where one can go for help with a medical problem.
He relayed to me the story of four local citizens who had sought direction from him recently. One was a jack of all trades who could only find part time work over the past year. He was referred to a local charity that had a network of primary care doctors who volunteered free or low cost services. He could not afford the medication to treat a debilitating chronic condition.
Another, a fast food worker holding down a total of three jobs to support his family, made too much money to qualify for a low cost doctor’s visit, but he had a medical condition that required some surgery he could not even begin to afford.
A waitress only wanted a checkup, but she had “some issues” and was afraid she could not afford the extensive tests she might be required to take. None of these had insurance; none qualified for Medicaid and they faced gambling they could get by without care hoping their problems did not become emergencies later. These are among the 540,000 in Colorado who would benefit from Obamacare.
They or others like them will arrive at the emergency room sometime in the future with strokes, stage three cancer, or other diseases that reach an acute level and have become extremely expensive to treat due to lack of earlier care. If any of these patients need surgery or hospitalization and cannot afford to pay, they get treatment regardless, and the unpaid bill is absorbed by the hospital who passes the cost on in higher charges for us all. This runs up insurance premiums for those of us who have health insurance and costs government more for Medicare and Medicaid.
It is estimated by the American Medical Association that those who have insurance pay $1,000 more per family per year for insurance than they should because of this and helps account for the often cited statistic that health care in the U.S. costs two and a half times per capita than elsewhere in the industrialized world.
We are already paying for the uninsureds’ care and are paying more than top dollar for our care, too. It is no wonder that the Congressional Budget Office estimates net savings from Obamacare would be $120 billion to the government over the first 10 years and trillions thereafter, a statistic conveniently ignored by GOP presidential candidates who hyperinflate Obamacare costs as trillions without citing the offsetting savings and offer no plan to cover most of the 30 million of our nation’s uninsured.
For more commentary, go to http://www.mufticforum.com
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