Last month in the “Community Forum” section, Rep. Ferguson, R-Ga., outlined what he and some of his colleagues in Congress call a plan to replace The Affordable Care Act (ACA), or as some call it, “Obamacare.” It seems that Rep. Ferguson has a poor understanding of how health care and insurance work. This raises the question, who is he really representing? This “plan” will not just undo the good already done by the ACA but may well unravel Medicare as well.
There are four main points made by the congressman. First, he seems to believe that the ACA is about to fail. Really, has he read the Congressional Budget Office report issued by Director Keith Hall, a Republican or The Brookings Institution analysis? The ACA is not on the verge of collapse but may well fail if sabotaged by the current administration. Furthermore, most of the current problems in health care financing are due to Republican efforts to water down the ACA to protect the pharmaceutical and insurance industries. In any case, allowing the ACA to collapse will injure millions of our fellow citizens and is no way to govern.
Secondly, the congressman raises the canard of “personal freedom.” What the Republicans are proposing is not freedom but rather a system where the strong prey upon the weak. Rep. Ferguson seems OK with a system that allows the insurance industry to offer cheap, junk policies that are designed to maximize profits while restricting access to care. The Republicans in Congress would scrap requirements that health insurance must cover basic, minimal things such as emergency care, outpatient and preventative care or lab tests just to name a few. If you have ever tried to negotiate with an insurance company, then you understand that “personal freedom” is code for, “good luck – you’re on your own.” Allowing insurance companies to scam people with worthless health insurance is poor public policy.
Third, “patient-centered” care is a catchy concept without substance. Providing expanded choice and access has to do with how care is financed and delivered. This is complicated. As the president has said, “Who knew health care was so complicated?” Apparently not our congressman. Allowing some employed families to increase their Health Savings Accounts (HAS) does almost nothing to address choice or access. HASs are a good Idea, but to suggest that expanded HASs will provide for “patient-centered” care is plainly ridiculous.
Finally, here in Georgia our state government refused to expand Medicaid. This was a political, not financial, decision. It was done to undercut the ACA. The federal monies that would have come to Georgia would have improved the health of poor Georgians, expanded services and access for all Georgians and improved the financial viability of Georgia’s smaller and rural hospitals. I fail to see how not expanding Medicaid protects vulnerable Georgians as the congressman suggests. It was a poor decision as evidenced by the fact that Georgia is now trying to get this funding before the conservatives in Washington cut Georgia off by repealing the ACA.
I had hoped that Drew Ferguson, as a Freshman congressman, would bring a fresh view to Washington and represent the interests of the 3rd District. However, his public statements can only be explained if he is either woefully uniformed or not being honest with his constituents.
(Frederick Rovner is a former Infantry officer and Vietnam veteran living in Senoia. He is a certified nurse practitioner with more than 25 years of emergency medicine and family practice experience who retired from the Medical College of Georgia two years ago, but still works as a part-time medical provider.)