The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Opinion

January 20, 2014

Kelly Meares, guest columnist: The impact of ACA isn’t really ‘devastating’ at all

CARL JUNCTION, Mo. — Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., recently invited families to share their horror stories and devastation brought upon fellow Missourians by the implementation of Obamacare.

As a victim of this travesty and a reasonably sophisticated consumer of the health insurance product for both small business and personal use, I welcome the chance to make informed complaints (and hope to share with Globe readers). A paraphrase of my reply follows:

Thanks for the invitation to share the devastating impacts of Obamacare on our family. If you don’t mind, I will refer to it as the ACA instead of a hate-based euphemism. Yes, Obama has adopted the term hoping to neutralize it, but the Affordable Care Act was created by Congress and built on a hodgepodge of Republican ideas in the hope of bipartisanship while still (regrettably) mollycoddling insurance companies.

Because of the ACA, our business is suffering through lower insurance costs for the first time ever. In spite of staff aging up, our provider has lowered our premium costs. We were accustomed to double-digit increases for most of the last decade. But please, don’t judge failure or success on the basis of anecdotes.

Because of the ACA, 588,000 Missourians (including our staff) received a rebate last year as required by the ACA because premium costs exceeded actual disbursements for care. That is fact, not anecdote, and also occurred in 2012. Did you miss that story in the supposed liberal media? Yes, I did too.

Because of the ACA, our young adult child has had the security of insurance as a dependent on our policy since leaving college. She will be able to transition to a plan on the exchange regardless of pre-existing conditions. Devastating stuff, indeed.

I fear that the ACA will allow hospitals and medical practitioners to spend less time chasing debtors and foreclosing on the homes of the unfortunate people who happen to have some assets but insufficient or no insurance coverage for whatever reason. The medicos will be liberated to practice medicine and will have less deadbeat debt to pass on to the paying customers.

And now mom-and-pop businesses that make the sacrifice to provide insurance for their employees will have a more level playing field against those businesses that neglect their moral obligation to their workers. Consider this — if your business model depends on a paying a non-living wage and pushing your workers into the safety net (provided by others), then you are not an entrepreneur; you are an exploiter. To borrow a popular hate phrase: You are not a producer; you are a parasite.

Because of the ACA, big businesses that inadvertently created our employer based health care model a few decades ago will see the “free riders” compelled to chip in on their expense to the system. They will see the preventive care features eventually reduce the ER burden and those unnecessary costs.

Even lower costs to the payers is possible if the Missouri GOP controlled statehouse would do the right thing, and big businesses would not have to continue to subsidize the 193,000 Missourians left behind on the Medicaid expansion.

Whom do the state legislators work for?

Can you get your party to give them permission to serve Missourians?

Granted, the individual mandate is an ugly remedy to an even uglier problem. Best solution — single payer, but the doomsayers shot that down. An insurance-based system has to be based on the principles of insurance. No more cherry-picking by providers and no more opting out by consumers depending on their perception of need. Do you really know when you will be hit by that bus? To avoid the balkanization of coverage that happened before, all plans need to be comprehensive whether you have ovaries or not. Enough of the mock outrage and straw man arguments, please.

Only the wealthy have had unfettered choice of doctors or providers for decades. The rest of us have been restricted our entire working lifetime. We choose from the list provided by our employer or the policy we purchase, which is subject to change at any time. For those whose policy was canceled because it didn’t meet minimum standards, consider yourself fortunate if you remained healthy, both physically and fiscally. Because of the ACA, you will be able to purchase a real policy at lower cost.

Of course, it’s human nature not to like the ACA simply because nobody actually wants insurance. Nobody wants hospitals or doctors. Everybody wants to live a healthy, non-medically entwined existence. But unless the GOP can deliver the latter, then you must do more to support the former instead of making political capital on our denial and obstructing the flawed solution.

I request that you serve the people of Missouri and reject the politics of GOP obstruction at all costs.

Kelly Meares lives in Carl Junction and is a small-business owner. He employs 25 people.

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