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Do Republicans Really Oppose Making Health Care Insurance Cheaper?

The health-care debate has a cyclical nature, and I don’t want to keep writing the same posts over and over again. So rather than write a whole new piece on the GOP’s rediscovery of the Congressional Budget Office’s estimate that the health-care law will reduce the labor supply (which they recast as “destroying jobs”), I’ll just link to the long post I did on the subject in January.

In case you don’t want to click over, though, the short version is this: If you make health-care insurance cheaper and make it harder for insurance companies to deny people coverage, then a certain number of people who would like to leave the labor force but can’t afford or access health-care insurance without their job will stop working.

To understand why, imagine a 62-year-old woman who works for IBM and beat breast cancer 10 years ago. She wants to retire. She has the money to retire. But no one will sell her health care under the status quo. Under the health-reform law, she can buy health care in an exchange because insurers can’t turn her away due to her history of breast cancer. So she’ll retire. Or imagine a 50-year-old single mother who wants to home-school her developmentally disabled child but can’t quit her job because they’ll lose health care. The subsidies and the protections in the Affordable Care Act will give her the option to stop working for awhile, while under the old system she’d need to stick with her job to keep her family’s health-care coverage. That’s how health-care reform can reduce the labor supply. If either case counts as a destroyed job, then so does my winning the lottery and moving to Scotland in search of the perfect glass of whiskey.

Moreover, this would happen for any health-care reform that reduced costs and improved access. So when Republicans say that they want a better health-care reform bill that does even more to reduce costs, they’re calling for legislation that, according to them, would “destroy” even more jobs than the Affordable Care Act. If they’re against all legislation that might destroy jobs in this way, then they’re against making health care cheaper. In fact, by that logic, we could just jack the price of health-care insurance up and make it easier for insurers to turn individuals away. Then even more people would have to stick with their employers. Job creation!

By: Ezra Klein-The Washington Post, February 11, 2011

February 12, 2011 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Health Reform | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ineffective and Unfair: Conservatives Target Preventive Health Care for the Ax

It seems we’ve entered the season of shortsighted thinking. With 50.7 million uninsured Americans, Republicans are on a rampage to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Adding insult to injury, the most recent House Republican plan to cut the federal budget deficit this fiscal year took a scalpel to $10 billion in federal grants that provide health care to indigent women and children, slashing $2 billion in federal funding that is bound to have very expensive consequences.

Funding for community health centers will be cut in half by the Republican cuts. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), who was a co-sponsor of the legislation responding to President George W. Bush’s call to expand funding for these centers in 2008, says that “since 2001, additional funding has allowed health centers in more than 750 communities nationwide to provide care to about four million new patients. These centers provide affordable and quality care to at-risk Americans who otherwise might have to do without.”

He’s right on the mark. No health care costs will be avoided by cutting this $1 billion out of the budget because the absence of care doesn’t stop you from getting sick. It simply means you get sicker and you turn up at the emergency room or a hospital when your illness has progressed to the point that your care needs are exorbitantly expensive.

On top of this cut to care, which more often than not is the safety-net care for women and children, the proposals would also cut the maternal and child health block grant by 30 percent. This block grant pays for child immunizations and prenatal care for tens of thousands of women and children. It’s obvious that without access to immunizations more will have to be spent to care for kids sick with easily preventable illnesses.

And reducing access to prenatal care is both life-threatening and costly. A preemie baby’s health care costs are 10 times higher than a full-term, healthy-weight child, according to the March of Dimes. The organization estimates that the full lifetime health care costs for these fragile children hit the $17 billion mark. It’s simply penny wise and pound foolish to cut $199 million out of a program that has a proven track record of delivering health to babies and driving down America’s health care costs.

Among the programs slashed is one of the most efficient programs to improve child nutrition: the Women, Infants and Children program run by the Department of Agriculture. This program gives expectant mothers with very small children important tips on how to feed their children healthy meals. And it provides them with coupons to incentivize them to purchase the best foods for their children. Research shows that without this intervention the nutritional intake of these children would be higher in fats, salts, and sugars, according to a recent U.S. Food and Nutrition Services study.

Instead of spending $1,400 a month in extra medical care for an obese child, for just $41 per month this program shifts these young mothers and children into healthy eating patterns, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Clearly, the WIC approach is a useful and relatively cheap way to stem the rising tide of childhood obesity.

An unsurprising but equally shortsighted cut is the complete elimination of family-planning services. If you just listened to their sound bites, you would think these funds could be used for abortions. But we all know that’s not permitted. These federal funds make it possible for uninsured women and men to get access to critical contraceptive services, pregnancy counseling, and tests for sexually transmitted infections, cervical cancer screening, and other critical health screens. Without access to these health care services, the health care needs of these adults will not disappear.

Instead, these adults will end up with unintended pregnancies and preventable health conditions that could have been avoided had they had ready access to commonplace family-planning services and screenings. Indeed, every dollar spent on family-planning services saves taxpayers $4 in Medicaid-funded prenatal, delivery, and postpartum services alone, according to a recent study by the Guttmacher Institute.

The absurdity of these cuts to the block grant, community health care centers, and family-planning services is that none of this funding would be necessary if we had a fully functioning national health care system where every American had access to high-quality care.

Benjamin Franklin famously said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Millions more Americans will lose access to health care as a result of these cuts and as a result more will have to be spent to address the real health care consequences of these cuts. Franklin also invented bifocals so his aging colleagues could see the important documents they gathered to draft. Perhaps the Republican leadership needs to adjust their glasses so they more clearly see that $2 billion in cuts they propose to the health care services for poor women and children will cost the taxpayers billions more in unnecessary health care expenses.

By: Donna Cooper, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress, February 10, 2011

February 12, 2011 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Health Care, Health Reform, Uninsured | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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