Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Affordable Care Act: Issues worth noting in the search for truth

The debate about the Affordable Care Act, the health care bill enacted under Obama's leadership, has been so fierce that the actual provisions of the law have been veiled.  Also, it turns out, some of the language used to characterize it are deliberately crafted to obfuscate it.  

In an article entitled “Obama and Health Care:  The Straight Story” in the NYRB [June 21, 2012 p45-47] Jeff Madrick reviews several recent books on the Affordable Care Act.” The books he reviews are Remedy and Reaction by Paul Starr;  Inside National Health Reform by John E McDonough, and  Fighting for our Health by Richard Kirsch.

The whole article is useful but I note here some details I thought worth giving prominence to:

Some statistics on the current level of care in America:

“Except for the US, no rich nation in the world fails to provide comprehensive health care that is free or inexpensive to its entire populations.  Yet roughly 50 million Americans, 16 percent of the population have no health insurance at all…” 
“A Harvard Medical School study found that some 45,000 deaths a year are associated with lack of health insurance.” 
“Americans pay more than 17 percent of the Gross Domestic Product for their health care, more than any other rich nation by far.” 
“The US ranks forty-eighth in infant mortality among all nations, and its rank has been falling…”
Some provisions in the Affordable Care Act:
“half of the newly insured would be covered by significantly expanded Medicaid, …  The other half would be subject to an individual mandate, requiring them to sign up for at least a minimal insurance plan or pay a penalty.” [This latter provision is being reviewed by the Supreme Court] 
“the bill would also prevent health insurance companies from turning down applicants with preexisting health conditions or limiting annual benefits for those who get sick.” 
Some historical notes on who have supported such an act in the past:
“Conservatives resent the individual mandate that all Americans buy insurance, even though mandates had been a staple of Republican health care proposals since the 1970s.”  
“FDR favored universal health care … but hesitated to develop a specific plan.” 
“Harry Truman favored a national health care plan…” 
“In the 1970s Richard Nixon favored a universal health care system for all…” 
“Charles Grassley, the Republican senator from Iowa, had favored a public option during the Clinton health care debates in 1993…”
Republican strategy on how to characterize the health care bill
Emphasize that health care reform would “deny” care to Americans;  
Talk about “a government takeover”,  "Takeovers are like coups… They both lead to dictators and a loss of freedom.”

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