How do we find the truth?Published 10:13am Friday, November 22, 2013
It gets more and more difficult to sort out truth from fiction in American politics. It seems every issue offers duel, competing truth suggestions, constructed in such ways that “true believers” can find little or no similarity in the accounts of the facts and the more important conclusions.
For Republicans the truth is Benghazi demonstrated an administration more intent on its own image than on saving Americans in harm’s way. Fast and Furious meant the top levels of the administration helped get guns into the hands of Mexican drug gangs. IRS gate meant the administration sought to punish political opponents with the tax code. But, more than anything else, Republicans think Obamacare is death to America.
Democrats argue our State Department representatives were in harm’s way and were ambushed by the enemies of America. In Fast and Furious democrats present the case as local ATF agents making bad judgments, as had happened underl the Bush administration. In the IRS slow approval of tax exempt political information groups were caused by the deluge of applications, almost exclusively from Tea Party folks starting new funding vehicles. And, in Obamacare, the criticisms are both unfounded and ill-intended.
Examining Obamacare, the most argued of all issues, how do we find the truth?
That is best done by a brief examination of the history and of the facts now available.
Historically US health care costs, as a portion of the economy have had an increase far higher than inflation and an effect of using almost 17 percent of GDP, a percentage more than double any other western developed nation. Over the last two decades these rising costs have all but absorbed employees salary growth by transferring all potential income increases into paying insurance premium increases. This effect has hurt consumer buying power, slowed business growth and undermined competitiveness against global business and industry.
The key and core issue in US health care has been to bend the high cost curve, or watch our economy bury itself in these runaway costs.
Of course, the US for profit model has other problems unique to it, like millions uninsured, policies written that cover little and a refusal to insure the sickest people.
From those issues came the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The ACA funded a transition to digital records in health care, increased funding to identify fraud, a ceiling on insurers profit taking, policies to reduce hospital re-admissions, preventative care designed to lower long-term health issues and the creation of free-standing community clinics.
The ACA also ended policy payout ceilings, cancellations of minors with serious and expensive illnesses, a gradual end to the Part D donut hole, wellness free annual visits, preventative care and extended coverage to age 26 for younger people.
But the ACA has been far from perfect in implementation. The now infamous website start-up could hardly have been done more poorly, and the Presidents’ overly simplistic promise that you could keep your insurance policy was political malfeasance and downright wrong. The truth is everyone will have to have the better policies in the ACA, because the standards make health care better for everyone.
So in terms of implementation, time will tell. The website has had an amazing 12 million visitors already and, according to the associated press, 1.5 million waiting approval for their plan. Individual state sites have signed up another 337,000 individuals to date. Medicaid expansion has enrolled over 1 million so far with more soon to become insured, many for the first time.
But beyond the benefits of better coverage requirements and millions more insured, the crucial component is bending the cost curve, and on that measure the Council of Economic Advisers reports that health care inflation today is at its lowest in the last 50 years. If this trend should continue, as many experts expect as a result of the ACA and low currency inflation, the effect would be the addition of 200,000 to 400,000 jobs per year.
The facts about Obamacare suggest that, while republicans love to hate it, the ACA has already improved health care coverage and curbed the inflationary cost that have and would disrupt the economy. These are indisputable evidence of measurable success.
Jim Crawford is a retired educator and political enthusiast living here in the Tri-State.