Rep. Scott Tipton: Coloradans deserve affordable, accessible health care

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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.

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Scott R. Tipton

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.

Comments

Julie Green 9 months, 1 week ago

Just for the record Scott: After providing health insurance for my employees for 15 years; when I sold my business 10 years ago,I was denied health insurance because of pre-existing conditions. I have been on Cover Colorado for some years which is the State of Colorado's health care provider for people who cannot get regular commercial health insurance. There are many doctors who would not accept this insurance and it is quite expensive. Through the Colorado health care exchange, I now have regular health insurance with no exclusions and it is $150/month cheaper. I live in Routt County.

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Dan Kuechenmeister 9 months, 1 week ago

As I have stated before, there will be winners and there will be losers. I think most will agree that affordable health care for all is a laudable goal. Intuitively, it appears that there are currently more losers then winners other wise why would President Obama, possibly by presidential fiat not rule of law, have decided to back the insurance companies and state insurance exchanges into a corner by "allowing" them to extend policies, that are technically illegal, for a year that had already been cancelled. Whose fault will it be when some of those policies are not or can not be re-issued. Will it be the fault of the man who made the "inaccurate promise" (never heard that term before - thanks New York Times) or the fault of the insurance companies and state exchanges that have a short period of time to figure it out. And that's after the ACA proponents had 3 1/2 years to get their ducks in a row for the roll out.

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Scott Wedel 9 months, 1 week ago

The Empowering Patients First Act sponsored by Rep Tipton appears to be worse than the ACA. It does nothing to address the issues of pre-existing conditions or healthy people not buying insurance.

The trouble with our model of private health insurance companies is not they are poorly run and failing to offer good policies at reasonable prices. The trouble is that the health insurance companies are efficient and it is expensive to provide healthcare services to sick people so the fair market price for someone with pre-existing conditions is extremely high.

The other big challenge is that we provide emergency medical services to people without healthcare and whom cannot afford what they are about to receive. So there is a huge cross subsidy from paying patients to the not paying. The cross subsidy has been growing and increasing the cost of health insurance which has resulted in more people not having insurance. And government paid healthcare was seeing their costs spiral upwards with people putting off dealing with medical issues until 65.

The ACA deals with those challenges and is arguably the framework of the only approach that can preserve private health insurance companies. The private health insurance model requires that the cost of the uninsured is kept low. And if the government is not going to pick up the costs of those with pre-existing conditions then those costs have to be spread among the healthy.

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John Fielding 9 months, 1 week ago

What difference is there between the government picking up the cost and spreading it among the healthy? Sounds like the same thing to me.

And what about those who actually keep themselves healthy, treat their challenges with holistic or vibrational medical practices, pay for it themselves, and just want a policy that would deal with a major accident or environmental disease like cancer? Can that no longer be offered?

Health insurance should be just like car insurance, higher premiums for higher risk, lower deductibles of greater coverage. A policy that pays for tires and oil changes will be more expensive than one that covers collision only. No one should be denied coverage but unhealthy life choices and individual genetic differences must logically be reflected in premiums. If it is too hard on those who have afflictions, a charity can be established to help fund their premiums, or as is the case in so many health charities, provide care directly. The role of the government should be limited to keeping fraud at bay and ensuring fair competition.

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mark hartless 9 months, 1 week ago

The costs of healthcare for the uninsured is not going to be spread among the healthy, nor has it ever been.

Many of the healthy are young and uninsured and do not pay.

The costs, as with everything else, will be spread among NOT the healthy nor the insured but rather among the taxpayers. If this was only partially true before Obamacare it is now a certainty.

Furthermore, I question the assertion made in Tipton's letter, that Coloradans "...deserve affordable, accessible healthcare."

First, "affordable" is a relative term. How many people that could somehow "afford" tickets to the Broncos game still say someone else should help them "afford" healthcare? Whether it is a ski pass, a snowmobile or a plane ticket, most Americans "afford" whatever they want while they whine, wimper and howl about what they wish someone else should subsidize.

Second, healthcare in America, like almost everything else, is about as "accessible" as it gets.

The question is whether Americans think they deserve to put the costs of their healthcare off onto someone else and whether or not it is wise to entrust the masters of the US Postal service and Amtrack with their heart operations.

The answer to that question is astoundingly, unbelievely, absolutely yes, they do. That entitlment mentality alone implies they most certainly DO NOT deserve it and will likely get something akin to it's opposite.

In Obamacare, as with many other aspects of this adminstration, Coloradans who, not once but twice, proudly made this a great big blue state are getting and will continue to get EXACTLY what they deserve.

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Scott Wedel 9 months, 1 week ago

Except the uninsured healthy all too often have a medical crisis and become the uninsured sick.

And many of the low cost insurance plans had low lifetime maximums and other limits so if the buyers got cancer or such then coverage would end just as the expenses started building.

Healthcare insurance is a bit of an oxymoron because the entire concept of insurance is based upon shared risk which requires a high level of randomness. For car and home insurance, it is largely random which buyers of insurance have claims. And having one claim has only a modest increased chance of future claims. But healthcare is way too predictable and those with a few claims are way too predictable as going to need additional care.

Thus, as a society we could embrace the free market and people get the healthcare they can afford. Society would have to accept that children, friends, loved ones and anyone are allowed to die because they had a medical issue greater than their ability to pay for the required medical care.

Or society could say that medical care is a basic human right and so no one is going to be allowed to die, be maimed or suffer due to a lack of basic medical care. Which is what we have done. Then comes the question of how to pay for it. Most countries have moved to a system of government healthcare where every citizen is guaranteed a pretty reasonable level of healthcare.

The USA has had a system of private healthcare for people with nice jobs, government paid care for the elderly and poor, and tens of millions of uninsured. With the number of uninsured growing and the costs of the uninsured driving up costs for private insurance and governments.

The USA pays between 50% and 100% more for healthcare per capita than other developed countries and overall gets worse results. We have higher costs by people coming to the emergency room needing expensive care instead of having issues dealt with earlier during regular doctor visits at a far lower cost. For instance we have the best neonatal care, but we need to use if more often because we have by far the highest rate of a pregnant woman's first medical care being at the emergency room in labor. Other countries actually have ad campaigns making it clear that a pregnant woman needs to visit a doctor and they make sure the doctor visit is easily affordable.

And here's the thing, elected officials like Scott Tipton will say it is not acceptable to let uninsured or not wealthy people die due to a lack of basic medical care. But aren't willing to be honest to the public and present a plan that would fulfill that promise.

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Harvey Lyon 9 months ago

You know, solid health insurance, until eligible for medicare, for those that serve for 20 years or more in the US Armed Forces has been a major recruiting tool for, well for years.

If folks decide its now a benefit for all then you're going to have to figure on paying your career soldiers a whole lot more for them to put up with the danger and BS of being in the US Military.

Even in the recession the military was having trouble finding sufficient qualified volunteers. Its high tech now and less than 30% of the population qualifies academically and physically.

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rhys jones 9 months ago

Harvey -- I didn't have to put in 20 to get VA medical coverage -- just did my four, got honorably discharged, and was unemployed at the right time. Now I've got full routine coverage at any of their facilities, and full emergency coverage anywhere, qualifying me for ACA. That's why I've stayed out of this squabble.

I joined for all the wrong reasons, but the benefits have even exceeded my rationalizations. Not only did they teach me programming and send me to college, but now they've got all my medical (what I don't spring for to save the drive) and some day they'll help me buy a house. All in all, not a bad move, considering my ill-advised motives for enlisting.

And I guess the military can afford to be picky now, since they're farming all the mundane tasks -- mess, transport, eg -- out to Halliburton contractors, at $200K/yr/ea, rather than PFC's who didn't do so well on the tests. Wise move, that one.

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mark hartless 9 months ago

When the "almighty state" comes in and "fixes" everything it places itself in positions once reserved for individuals.

It replaces fathers with a welfare check, work with food stamps, jobs with unemployment checks, education with self-esteem, statesmen with politicians...

And, as Harvey just pointed out, it even competes with itself for defenders.

Socialist states eat themselves because, in the end, nobody wants to bake bread for the masses for nearly zero wages when they can just sit on their ass and drink vodka....

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