Bogus Rationale for Obamacare Still Being Peddled Even after Study Debunked It

by Hans Bader on January 3, 2014 · 1 comment

in Features, Healthcare, Politics as Usual, Regulation, Zeitgeist

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“More bad news for Obamacare and its proponents. A new study from Oregon shows that” expanded Medicaid coverage “increased–rather than decreased–both the number of folks crowding emergency rooms and the subset of those who sought care for conditions that clearly were not emergencies. Many health experts who supported the Affordable Care Act had predicted the opposite outcome,” reported Scientific American yesterday.

Similarly, the Daily Caller reported that “a Harvard University study published Thursday concludes that Medicaid enrollment significantly boosts emergency room visits. This is in direct contradiction to the Obama administration’s claims that his healthcare reform law would put a dent in costly visits to the ER as a way to cut spending,” by expanding Medicaid and other subsidized health insurance coverage.

Unfazed by reality, the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee kept on peddling the very rationale for Obamacare that had just been scientifically debunked. Although the Oregon study showed that expanding insurance coverage increases emergency room visits (and thus drives up costs to the healthcare system), the DLCC claimed just the opposite, suggesting that expanded health insurance coverage magically pays for itself by reducing healthcare costs. On January 2, the DLCC wrote, “Also happening yesterday? Nearly 7 million Americans’ new health coverage went into effect. Those 7 million Americans can now go to the doctor when they’re sick, and their Emergency Room visits will no longer have to be paid for through higher prices for everyone else.”

This claim was found in the email I received yesterday from Michael Sargeant of the DLCC:

From: Michael Sargeant <michael.sargeant@dlcc.org>
Sent: Thursday, January 2, 2014 8:02 PM
Subject: Thanks for the milestone

Hans, something happened yesterday that would have been unthinkable even a few years ago . . .Yesterday’s milestone is that starting January 1st, pre-existing conditions are now gone forever. For everyone.

Also happening yesterday? Nearly 7 million Americans’ new health coverage went into effect. Those 7 million Americans can now go to the doctor when they’re sick, and their Emergency Room visits will no longer have to be paid for through higher prices for everyone else.

This claim that costs will fall, preventing “higher prices,” is pure fantasy. Emergency-room visits will go up, not down, due to Obamacare. (Before Obamacare was enacted, only about two percent of all healthcare spending was on emergency-room care.)

The DLCC’s email also ignored other unpleasant realities about Obamacare, such as the fact that it has actually resulted in millions of people losing their health insurance, and some people paying more money for inferior health plans with higher deductibles. As a CBS TV station in Denver noted, “Millions of people are getting cancellation notices, including about 250,000 Coloradans. For years the president said that those who like their current plan would be able to keep it, but it turns out that’s not the case.” As glitches in the healthcare system multiply due to Obamacare, its supporters have resorted to scapegoating insurers, and falsely claiming that its problems are due to (non-existent) Republican refusals to support legislation to fix it.

Obamacare has many other flaws. It contains massive marriage penalties that discriminate against married people, and huge work disincentives for some. It has reduced hiring and induced employers to replace full-time workers with part-time employees, driving even unions that once backed it to seek its repeal or replacement. It has also caused layoffs in the medical device industry. Two doctors recently argued in The Wall Street Journal that Obamacare is “bad for your health,” and that “venture capital investment in medical devices has all” but ceased due to it. They predict that Obamacare’s effect on medical innovation will be “devastating.”

Hans Bader January 3, 2014 at 8:16 pm

Most healthcare experts never bought this bogus rationale for Obamacare, but this false claim was a staple of the PR campaign in support of passage of the Affordable Care Act, as the New York Times and CNS News have noted.

“Obamacare supporters, including the president himself, predicted that the Affordable Care Act would reduce the number of trips to expensive hospital emergency rooms, but as The New York Times reported on Friday, that may not be the case,” notes CNS News. “An experiment in Oregon found that newly insured people went to the emergency room ‘a good deal more often’ than those without insurance.”

As the New York Times put it, “Those who gained coverage made 40 percent more visits to the emergency room than their uninsured counterparts . . .The findings cast doubt on the hope that expanded insurance coverage will help rein in emergency room costs . . . And they go against one of the central arguments of the law’s supporters, that extending insurance to large numbers of Americans would reduce emergency room use, and eventually save money.”

The New York Times story is available at:
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/03/health/access-to-health-care-may-increase-er-visits-study-suggests.html?_r=0

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