This letter was submitted to the DeForest Times-Tribune newspaper as a letter-to-the-editor on March 29, 2014.
On March 22nd I attended a lecture on health care reform and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) at the Wisconsin Grassroots Network Festival in Mazomanie. Robert Kraig of Citizen Action of Wisconsin reported that the ACA is succeeding, contrary to what one hears on right wing talk radio and TV. Mr. Kraig said that research shows that most people approve of the component parts of the ACA, even though a majority disapproves of the ACA when it is disparagingly presented as "obamacare." People seem to approve of health care reform that creates standards and outlaws abuses in the health care industry. Interestingly, two single payer health care systems -- Medicare and the Veterans Administration -- have proven to be the most efficient health care systems in the country.
Wisconsin has not taken advantage of the new reforms. By refusing the offers from the federal government to expand Medicaid, Wisconsin winds up paying more for health care while covering fewer people. What foolishness.
Wisconsin state government does not do well regulating the "medical loss ratio," which is the difference between the amount of money spent on care versus the amount spent on administration, advertising, and other non-care costs in the for-profit system. The ACA regulates that ratio to make sure more of our health care dollars go into care provision than go into non-care costs. In Minnesota, where the state has challenged health insurance companies when they apply for premium rate increases, insurance rates have dropped by 35 percent. By contrast, Wisconsin state government has not challenged a single company rate increase, and our insurance rates are much higher.
Congress has been criticized for causing many insurance companies to cancel policies. The truth of that matter is that most of those canceled policies were substandard -- did not meet the standards of the ACA -- and many were the equivalent of "snake oil," that is, the companies that sold them to people were cheating their customers by selling them substandard policies. The standards set by the Affordable Care Act ended those practices.
The fact of the matter is that in the U.S. those who can afford it get very good health care. The problems arise when we look at the cost of that care, the accessibility to it (or not), and the discrimination against certain classes of people that makes our system inferior to better organized systems in other countries. The ACA moves us closer to a more equitable and accessible system.
Let us hope that Wisconsin embraces the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act better in the future, so that we may benefit from the advantages and advances it offers us.