In explaining his Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”) alternative announced Tuesday, Sen. Bill Cassidy implied the ACA gives bureaucrats and politicians power over patients. This is simply false.
What the ACA actually does is set requirements for what the insurance companies must do FOR patients in return for our premium dollar and puts limits on what they are allowed to do TO patients in their pursuit of profits.
Prior to the ACA, insurance companies could legally drop your coverage even if you paid on time, jack up rates for any reason, spend as much of your premium dollar as they wanted on administrative overhead instead of health care, sell inadequate policies that left you stuck with big bills even though you thought you were covered and charge you more (or refuse to cover you at all) if you were sick. The ACA put an end to all that.
As to freedom, the ACA has personally given me a lot more of it. Being self-employed and thus responsible for buying my own health insurance, before the ACA, I worried every year at renewal time if this was going to be the year the insurance companies would price me out of the market or refuse to renew my policy at all. Would this be the year I’m forced to give up my plans and go back to work for somebody else just to get health insurance?
But it’s not just more freedom for the self-employed like me. It’s more freedom for everybody because before the ACA, anyone not covered by Medicare/Medicaid or the VA was just a job loss or serious illness away from becoming uninsured and at risk of financial ruin. Thanks to the coverage guarantees of the ACA, we no longer have to worry about that. However, if you read Cassidy’s plan, it would actually put insurance companies back in charge, while at the same time creating entirely new ways, that do not even exist today, for government to get involved in people’s health care. What happened to the Cassidy who, while a state senator in 2007, wrote SB307 that would have created the kind of health insurance exchange that today forms a key part of the ACA?
Sadly, politics happened. The ACA, based on ideas originally proposed by conservatives, was adopted and signed into law by a Democratic administration. That made it politically useful for politicians like Cassidy to run away from their own ideas and tie themselves into knots coming up with alternatives that unfortunately seem much more focused on not being ‘Obamacare” than on whether they will actually work for the people.