During the past month, there have been lots of changed attitudes in Washington about President Barack Obama’s health care law. With new issues arising almost daily from the disastrous rollout, the president and congressional Democrats can’t escape the fact that the law is broken.
Because of this, the conversation is beginning to shift toward finding alternative solutions to the president’s law that truly would bring about accessible and affordable health care for all Americans. This is an opportunity to get health care right in this country by replacing what’s broken.
I’ve heard many stories from Coloradans who are running up against barriers to obtaining health insurance, including everything from website issues and Medicaid issues to losing existing plans that the president promised they could keep and not being able to afford the increased costs under plans in the president’s health care law.
For many of those who have been able to get through the barriers to enroll in the exchanges, they have found that premiums are going up and deductibles and copays are skyrocketing, especially for those in rural areas.
A small church in Durango that has a group policy for its employees told me that under the president’s health care law, its premium is increasing nearly 50 percent — an additional $22,000 per year for its five employees. Like many businesses, families and individuals, the church simply can’t afford it.
Jenifer, from Monte Vista, wrote to my office: “Last evening I went on my insurance company’s website to see what my premium will be under the Affordable Health Care Act. I am in total shock. My husband and I are in very good health, we are in our late 50s and our premiums are going from $498 per month to over $1100 per month with less coverage. What part of this is affordable?”
Jenifer is exactly right — this law isn’t affordable nor is it making health care accessible.
To add insult to injury, residents in Colorado’s 3rd District have noticed that the costs of their premiums can be nearly double the price of someone living in an urban area. Steve, a 3rd District constituent, sent us an email saying that the lowest bronze plan premium when quoted for his Cortez ZIP code was $1,023. When he entered a Denver ZIP code for the exact same plan, the premium was $652. This amounts to a penalty on rural America and is blatantly unfair.
Bottom line: The president’s health care law was sold to Americans on false promises by the president and by Senate and House Democrats who didn’t even know what was in it before they passed it.
Now, we are seeing what’s in it — we’re living what’s in it — and it is a mess.
We’re seeing issues with accessibility — especially in rural areas where the expansion of Medicaid drastically is increasing the strain on providers’ limited resources, forcing them to stop seeing additional patients and effectively bringing about a rural health care crisis.
With premiums and deductibles skyrocketing under the president’s health care law, rural Americans being penalized with higher premium costs than those in urban areas, providers forced to turn away patients because of the colossal expansion of Medicaid and dismal enrollment numbers falling far short of the administration’s goals, it’s clear that the president’s health care law is neither accessible nor affordable.
We have an opportunity to work together to pass an alternative solution that truly expands affordability and accessibility — a patient-centered approach that allows for portability and pooling of coverage and ensures coverage of pre-existing conditions. This can be achieved through a market-driven solution that incentivizes enrollment with affordable access to quality care without forcing people to buy insurance they may not want through a mandate, enacts comprehensive tort reform to protect patients while preventing frivolous lawsuits and rewards innovation in the health care delivery system.
There are plans that have been introduced in the House of Representatives that are a good start to achieving these ends, including the Empowering Patients First Act (H.R. 2300), of which I am a co-sponsor.
The ideas in these plans deserve a closer look, and I’m hopeful they will be included in the national conversation as to how we can truly bring about affordable and accessible health care in this country.