Health Reform’s Problems Run Deeper than a Glitchy Website
by Philip Caper, M.D. Previously published in the Bangor Daily News; reprinted with author’s permission.
Serious problems with the websites created by the Affordable Care Act continue, and probably will for a long time. Although frantic efforts at incrementally improving them are being made by the Obama administration, and some sites are working better than others, they are a long way from working well.
The causes of the website’s problems are far more serious than poor software design. They are baked into the law by its extreme complexity.
There is growing frustration and anger at the administration in Congress from both Democrats and Republicans. Much of it is being expressed by the same people whose hypocrisy and obstructionism is responsible for a failure to do the right thing in the first place. Calls from members of Congress to delay the ACA’s implementation or to repeal it entirely will intensify.
Instead of expanding our existing Medicare program, that has been working well for almost 50 years and is our country’s most efficient and least intrusive healthcare financing program, the ACA creates complex new law that perpetuates and reinforces the chaos and confusion of our hodgepodge of public and private insurance programs. Coverage and financial assistance continue to depend on an individual’s employment status, income, place of residence, age, conjectures about future health status and many other factors, some of them subject to change with little or no warning and many impossible to predict.
Smooth implementation of the ACA depends upon the ability of many parts of government and thousands of insurance companies to seamlessly communicate with one another and agree on data drawn from a myriad of different public and private sources. Some in the health insurance field believe such a task will be difficult or impossible to achieve.
We have to ask ourselves who are the winners from requiring us to go through the expense and confusion inherent in trying to implement a law of over 2,000 pages? The answer is clear. It’s a health insurance industry that profits from complexity and confusion, and providers of pharmaceuticals, medical supplies, devices and services who benefit excessively from the very weak cost controls inherent in our fragmented system of paying for services.
The losers are all the rest of us. The ACA’s objective, access to healthcare for all Americans, could have been accomplished much more easily with far less confusion, expense and complexity.
I talk to a lot of people from across the political spectrum about healthcare reform. There is a growing consensus that Improved Medicare for all is the necessary first step in repairing our badly broken healthcare system.
During a recent trip to California, I ran into House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. When I explained to her that while I admired her efforts to reform our healthcare system, I remain an advocate for “Improved Medicare for All”, she responded “Yes - we should have done single payer”.
Perhaps there’s still hope. Between Harry Reid’s recent comments and Nancy Pelosi’s epiphany, there seems to be a growing understanding of the problem, and its solution, in some parts of Congress.
But first, we will have to get rid of the obstructionist politicians whose only interest seems to be in preserving a health insurance industry that has become one of the most destructive forces in American society.
That task is up to us.
Tag lines: Affordable Care Act; ACA website; complexity of ACA; Medicare; improved Medicare for All; Harry Reid; Nancy Pelosi.