“It’s not what he doesn’t know that bothers me, it’s what he knows for sure that just ain’t so.” Although the provenance of this quote about politicians is debated, it undeniably fits Dan Debicella, the Republican challenger to Rep. Jim Himes.
In his recent op-ed, “Fixing our health care mess,” Debicella claims the Affordable Care Act “neglected to address the out-of-control costs squeezing middle class families.” Apparently Debicella is unaware that over the five years since ACA implementation began, health care costs have risen at the slowest rate in half a century. He also neglects to report that ACA stopped insurance companies from gouging people in the individual market, requiring insurers to put at least 80 percent of premium income towards medical care. Obamacare resulted in millions of dollars of overcharges being rebated to middle class consumers over the past two years.
Debicella claims the Affordable Care Act fails to cover “most of the uninsured” due to the ACA’s “convoluted exchange system.” In fact, despite the initial problems of the federal exchange website, more than 8 million middle class Americans enrolled in marketplace plans, and another 6 million received coverage through Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). After decades of consumers being locked out of the private insurance market, the uninsured rate hit an all-time high just before the healthcare exchanges opened late last year. Since then the rate has fallen more than 20 percent, “a sign that the Affordable Care Act…appears to be accomplishing its goal of increasing the percentage of Americans with health insurance coverage.” reported Gallup in April.
While criticizing Obamacare for failing to cover the uninsured, Debicella neglected to reveal that 25 states controlled by Republican governors and legislatures refused to extend Medicaid coverage, a key component of Obamacare, leaving millions of vulnerable Americans without access to health care. A study by Harvard University published in Health Affairs estimates that up to 17,000 Americans will die each year in the 25 “refusal states” due to lack of access to health care.
Thanks to Gov. Malloy’s leadership, CT’s state exchange worked beautifully, extending insurance to nearly two and a half times more residents than was originally estimated. Of the 79,000 residents who signed up for private sector health insurance policies through Access Health CT, nearly four in five received subsidies to help pay premiums. That isn’t “squeezing middle class families,” it’s helping them. Over 150,000 low-income Connecticut residents who couldn't afford health insurance before are now benefitting from the Medicaid extension.
Debicella’s alternative to the ACA is a “market-based system.” He is apparently oblivious to the fact that we’ve had (and still have) a largely market-based system that drives the highest costs in the world, while leaving millions uninsured and delivering sub-par performance when compared to the government-managed systems that Republicans love to denounce as “socialist” failures.
As a fix for high costs, Debicella proposes that insurance policies be sold across state lines. What he is really proposing is that junk insurance that used to be marketed in lightly regulated states be sold to unsuspecting consumers elsewhere. In another example of how Obamacare is helping the middle class, it put a stop to the peddling of junk insurance, requiring a basic level of services be offered in every state. That has lowered cost through standardization, while enhancing the quality and coverage of insurance policies.
Debicella also proposes tort reform as a means of reducing health care costs. Malpractice costs are a favorite Republican bogeyman even though they account for a small fraction of total healthcare costs. Commenting on proposals to restrict malpractice suits as a way to attack healthcare costs, Forbes (“the capitalist tool”) commented “Given the small percentage of the health care dollar spent on medical malpractice issues, that would hardly appear to be the case.”
There’s just so much that Mr. Debicella knows for sure that just ain’t so.