Conservative author Sally Pipes: ‘Obamacare’ turned health care system ‘upside down’
The health care debate continues to churn in our nation’s capital and across the nation.
Passage in 2010 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — otherwise known as the federal health care reform law — has divided many Americans. A survey taken Jan. 29 and 30, 2011, for Rasmussen Reports found that 58 percent of likely American voters support repeal of the reform law, while 38 percent oppose it. With Republicans having assumed control of the U.S. House in 2011, talk of repealing or fixing the divisive law has elicited plenty of fiery opinions.
One American who’s got a strong opinion about “Obamacare” is Sally Pipes, president and CEO of the conservative Pacific Research Institute, a free-market think tank. She’s the author of a book titled “The Truth About Obamacare” (Regnery Publishing, 2010). While her truth may not be everyone’s, the book offers a thorough airing of conservative objections to federal health care reform. InsuranceQuotes.com asked Pipes for her take on “Obamacare.”
InsuranceQuotes.com: The biggest argument behind health care reform is that tens of millions of Americans are uninsured. You claim that argument is misleading. How so?
|Sally Pipes, president and CEO of the conservative Pacific Research Institute, says seniors “are finally waking up” to the fact “Obamacare” will harm their access to medical treatment and doctors.|
Sally Pipes: The number of uninsured quoted by the Census Bureau in September 2010 was 50.7 million. But being uninsured doesn’t mean you don’t get health care.
About 15 million uninsured are eligible for government programs like Medicaid or the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, but they haven’t signed up. That may be because with Medicaid, it’s very hard to get a doctor because the reimbursement rates for doctors are so low — it’s easier to go to an emergency room.
About 17 million uninsured are people earning at least $50,000 per year; two-thirds of these are young and healthy. They feel invincible and don’t want to spend $400 a month on insurance, so they pay out of pocket.
Then there are about 8 million to 9 million of the uninsured who are chronically ill and can’t get affordable insurance. These are the people that I think reform should have focused on, instead of turning our whole system upside down.
InsuranceQuotes.com: In “The Truth About Obamacare,” you’re particularly concerned with how federal health care reform will affect Medicare.
Pipes: The president, in his speeches prior to passage of Obamacare, talked a lot about how costly fraud and abuse in Medicare and Medicaid are. He said there was about $500 billion in fraud in those two government programs. So if he wanted to do something, why not focus on getting rid of the fraud and abuse? Under Obamacare, Medicare is going to be cut $510 billion over 10 years.
I think seniors are finally waking up to the fact that this is going to impact their access to treatment and doctors. One in three new Medicare-eligible patients is already having a hard time finding a doctor, and it’s because reimbursement rates are already much lower than doctors get from private insurance. The cuts are being made in order to add 18 million new people to the roles of Medicaid, the program for low-income Americans. That is going to cost about $520 million over 10 years. So seniors are going to be adversely affected.
InsuranceQuotes.com: And you say that Medicare Advantage, the private supplemental form of Medicare, is in danger of disappearing completely?
Pipes: Yes. Medicare Advantage is very popular, with about a quarter of our seniors enrolled. The president said during the debates that he wants to get rid of Medicare Advantage. He thinks it’s too expensive and the outcomes are not good. Starting this year, Medicare Advantage is going to be cut by about $150 billion and ultimately phased out.
InsuranceQuotes.com: What about healthy people who already buy their own health insurance. Do they have anything to fear from reform?
Pipes: Starting in 2013, the government will have power over what constitutes an “acceptable” health care plan. It may be very difficult for individuals to get the same type of health insurance as they had in the past at a cost they can afford.
InsuranceQuotes.com: One of the chapters in your book is titled “The Road to Rationing.” Is that really where reform is leading us?
Pipes: Obamacare created a whole new organization, the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute. It’s patterned after a part of Britain’s National Health System called NICE that does research on treatments and decides which ones are cost-effective enough to be covered. My worry is that the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute will move America to a point where people will be denied treatments that may be medically effective but not cost effective. Those are not the same thing — one will save your life; the other will save money for the government.
InsuranceQuotes.com: In the book, you outline some alternatives to Obamacare that you feel would improve the existing system. Imagine you could pick one of those to be implemented. Which one and why?
Pipes: The most important one is to change the federal tax code so that individuals and families can deduct health insurance premiums from their taxes. This would immediately make coverage more affordable. Our current system allows employers, but not individuals, to write off coverage. Correcting this unfair imbalance would increase competition and efficiency, and end “job lock” — being trapped in a bad job by fear of losing health coverage. Not only Republicans but a number of Democrats already support this reform.