"Count the Cost" of Affordable Healthcare for All Americans

posted Sep 25, 2013, 2:39 PM by Willie T. Butler   [ updated Feb 4, 2014, 1:49 PM ]

Some Issues Can’t Wait!

In preparing to publish Part 3 of the Count the Cost Series on Buying a Home, I felt there was a more pressing subject that needed to be addressed right away, and by many.  As such, I ask you the reader to please forgive my interruption of this series and know that I will publish Part 3 in mid-October.

As October 1st is just around-the-corner and so many Americans are still confused about the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, it seems only fitting to try to address the many articles and viewpoints being expressed nationally that are for-or-against this seemingly unpopular legislation.   Hopefully, this article will be fair and balanced in its approach;  although I must say that I am writing [this article] because like Social Security, I believe that the Affordable Care Act is going to become one of America’s greatest legislative achievements.

There Is Good Precedent for Our Differences

There have been many public policy issues in the past few years that have splintered the ideological and practical views of Americans.   Going back to the enactment of the U.S. Constitution during a time when dissenters preferred secession to a law that imposes federal power over states’ rights.   During the days of Robber-Barons [i.e., a wealthy few running amuck] trying to monopolize the most prosperous industries serving our nation, its dissenters were against anti-trust legislation that would prohibit monopolies.  And, after the Stock Market Crash of 1929 that led to the Great Depression, much of the public developed such a disdain for banks and investment markets that they started keeping money in other, safer places which they could control.  It did not matter that a new Federal Reserve System—designed to safeguard America’s bank deposits against complete loss, was just instituted—the die was cast and Americans were against any innovations and social-economic progress by government.

And finally, when the Social Security Act of 1935 was enacted by Congress during the term of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the public outcry was extremely audible but contrastively muted by the millions of Americans whose social well-being was about to improve.  There was no question that after the Great Depression and catastrophic losses of both property and lives, something major needed to happen.  There was an outcry for sure, but not for our nation to remain a spectator of events but rather to take decisive action that might offer remedy to those millions of Americans who were poor , disabled and hurting, and without hope.

A House Divided

Well, the same outcry has permeated the airwaves within our nation today.  With over 35 million Americans with no healthcare coverage, some 12% of our nation’s population and, in many cases to no fault of their own, a long-term infectious ailment has finally worsened.  While the merits of why so many people are without adequate [or any] healthcare coverage today can be debated, are we really more concerned with the ideological view that some people are undeserving because they do not care for themselves, or others are simply poor money-managers?  Clearly, both types are integral to any discourse of reforming a national social program.  But, to what end is such a debate or discourse beneficial?

Let’s not get hung up on the rhetoric that has been ever vigilant in keeping a national debate on healthcare at the forefront.  Keep in mind that such a debate has multiple sides and not just two.  There are the taxpayers and the beneficiaries, the politicians (or elected officials) and their political affiliations who dig their heels in the sand, and there are the various businesses and professions in the legal, third-party administration, medical manufacturing, pharmaceutical, dental and medical fields that must also weigh in.  All told, many voices have differing views in part because they are personally, professionally and, in some cases invested significantly in the potential outcomes of this social reform issue.

So, who’s Right?

Will there be winners and losers financially and where profits, salaries and job opportunities are concerned?  Yes.  And, like other industries that were causally impacted by federal intervention, such as the postal services system, the railroads and the utility conglomerates, there will be changes that make huge gainers of a few at a loss to many.  But the real question we should ask is this:  Are we better off as a nation today—given the railroads, highways and utilities infrastructure, and related regulations enacted—than we were before these unpopular but necessary reforms were implemented?  Personally, I would say yes.

Let’s Look Within Ourselves and Find the Answer

While this is not a religious issue, generally speaking, our opinions [as Americans] should be informed (and perhaps persuaded) by what is the moral issue we are really debating.  In the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy (15:11) we can find where our modern-day social challenges could be objectively considered by this verse:  “There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.” 

Now, some might say that America is not the Nation of Israel, and we are not living in the time before Christianity came on the scene.  However, is the issue of the poor or the moral commitment to help those in need any less relevant in our day than thousands of years ago?   In the NT Gospels, Jesus refers to this sobering truth about the poor as always existing within a nation’s borders—alluding, of course, to the Old Testament facts above—but His context also had to do with the right for any of us to prefer Him over the poor.  So, His message is actually two-fold:

  1. A fact about the poor, but also:

  2. An exhortation that in His short time on earth that His presence should take precedent in what others focused on.

And, less we forget, His most important exhortation was to simplify the instruction to each of us to:  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Matthew 22:36-40 NIV).  Do I really need to say any more?

 Truth and “Untruthful” Consequences

As the author of the Count the Cost Series, I would ask you to consider for yourselves how the Affordable Care Act will make life more difficult for any of our citizens.   This is the central debate of our day, not just that some undeserving Americans (other people’s words, not mines) will benefit from free or subsidized healthcare by the government.    To that I would respond, the ACA is not a government program and it is not free.  Yes, taxpayers pay for the program guidelines to be adhered to and we all subsidize those who cannot pay.  But make no mistake; ACA is still private, non-governmental insurance.

Another concern is that somehow the general cost of healthcare services will go up significantly.  My question would be on whom will these cost escalate?  Advertising campaigns against the healthcare law have presented images of older and not-so-healthy Americans who say their rights are being taken from them to visit their current doctor, specialist or to have the freedom to choose whoever they will.  And the medical professionals are saying that their current rates for service will naturally rise because they have to reduce their billing to those who cannot pay or can only afford to pay less.  Here are two more distortions of the actual law.

No one will be required to see any healthcare professional they do not want to see, unless they are part of a PPO (Preferred Professional Organization/Association).   Well, that is exactly how medical insurance and medical professions have grouped themselves and are paid today.  Nothing about these facts changes under the new law.   And, as for the notion that some who cannot pay will be subsidized at the expense of the medical professional is a really bad distortion.  Truth is, future billing schedules that healthcare company and independent professionals put out do not have to change.  Americans qualifying for healthcare under the ACA, and even for subsidies, will have a specific healthcare plan that entitles them to certain services which are covered under their plan, or that may require them to pay a higher premium for a better plan.  The only change from existing medical coverage today is that as on October 1st, millions more Americans become eligible to obtain the services of the current professionals, which—in turn—dramatically increases their business opportunities without causing them to charge less for care. 

Still Feeling the Same about the Affordable Care Act?

There is no law mandating that a heart surgeon lower their rate for a bypass surgery.  Instead of a long three-tiered process of billing and remittance, that surgeon can expect that every patient they see will have sufficient coverage to obtain their service or be re-directed [based on the plan] to someone who can assist them.   This does not change who that surgeon would usually have as patients, nor does it prevent someone needing bypass surgery from obtaining it elsewhere.   Again, I would ask, who is really being harmed in the enactment and administration of the Affordable Care Act?

My final thought is this.  What is it that Wal-Mart discovered that may have overlap with healthcare?  I think the success that Wal-Mart gained was in choosing a different business model than their retail competition.  They built huge stores that allowed many businesses to be under one roof, thus generating tenant revenues.  But, even bigger was the idea of volume discount, that is, the more of something we can sell for less, the more we will sell.   Wal-Mart set itself apart from most competitors by using this strategy, and today they are heralded as one of the world’s most successful companies.

And, think about it this way.  Ask any professional salesperson in the insurance, medical equipment, banking or real estate industries whether they would like to have millions of new customers/clients waiting for their services.  Only the foolish among them would say no.  My point simply, in a few months millions of Americans guaranteed to be eligible to have healthcare insurance will be hitting the marketplace and registering via exchanges seeking medical services.  Should this really be seen as a problem by any professional genuinely seeking to help others medically, or who are interested in making more $$ by serving more people?  

An Objective Summary and Prayer

If the average new healthcare insurance were simply $1,000 a year in premiums, multiplied by 35 million new beneficiaries, imagine the amount of new money there will be circulating in America, particularly into the healthcare profession that is not there now.  If you’re doing the math, that’s a $35 billion transfusion (on the low end) into an already very prosperous industry.   Real losers?..  I think not!

Soon the sound of Ca-ching! Ca-ching! will pour over into many industries: such as preventative care services, higher education and training, nutritional food manufacturers, and other professions as well.   So, why not keep our minds and biases in check and let’s consider those fellow Americans that will now realize that we—as fellow taxpaying citizens—do care for one another, just like after Katrina and 9-11, and are here to help.

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If you have an opinion or other thoughts to share, please tell us.  We value your feedback and we want to share truth and practical advice whenever we can.  Please add your comments so we can begin real dialogue on this important topic.  Thank you!