In the past week we have seen Republican leaders such as the President and Senate Majority Leader along with many House and Senate candidates take to the media to try to persuade the public that they will protect people with pre-existing conditions. It is, or should be, a tough sell thanks to their multiple attempts to repeal those very same protections, a recent public commitment to keep on trying, and support for a sweeping legal assault on the ACA that would, among other things, roll back consumer protections, strip health insurance away from millions and increase the cost of prescription drugs for Medicare beneficiaries.
And speaking of Medicare beneficiaries, many of these same officials are posing as defenders of Medicare against wholly imaginary threats they say Democrats pose to the program while musing out loud about their desire to cut Medicare at the same time. As former president Bill Clinton said, it takes some brass to attack someone for doing what yourself are doing.
The strategy of “deny everything even when caught red-handed” can only be used by those who harbor a deep cynicism, bordering on contempt, for the electorate. We will find out in just a few weeks whether that cynicism is justified and helps the GOP retain their majorities in the House and Senate.
Continuing with the theme of jarring juxtapositions, this past week we were treated to simultaneous stories about the growth of Medicare Advantage and the prevalence of improper claims denials within the program. The same problem seems to plague Medicaid managed care. To add insult to injury, these publicly supported plans are boosting insurance industry profit margins even while many plans continue to boycott the ACA insurance markets. To sum up the deal Uncle Sam is offering the MCOs goes something like this: “You can make money off of public programs while failing to provide appropriate services to members and refusing to insure whole market segments.” Sound reasonable?
And now for some good news.
The evidence for the benefits of Medicaid expansion keep piling up. As Laura Colbert from Georgians for a Health Future observed, “The results from other states clearly demonstrate that it [Medicaid expansion] is the most cost-effective investment that Georgia’s policymakers can make in the health and prosperity of rural Georgians.”
And finally, Congress seems to be waking up to the problem of surprise out-of-network medical bills. New Hampshire Senators Hassan and Shaheen have filed a bill to protect consumers from surprise bills and create a dispute resolution system for health plans and providers. Their bill follows closely on the introduction of another bill by Senators Cassidy and Bennet.
Perhaps if the American people see through the empty promises to protect people with pre-existing conditions and put a stop to Republican efforts to repeal the ACA, Congress can actually turn their attention to solving the real problems in our health care system.
With thanks to Nina Oishi, program associate, for her assistance.