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Obama Health Care Plan Helps Seniors

By Mark Gaffney, Detroit News - August 19, 2009

The question of government intervention in America's health care system is certainly stirring up controversy. What should not be in dispute is that a fix is badly needed.

With costs increasing by an annual average of 8 percent for many years, the price of our care is unsustainable. With working families feeling the squeeze of adding co-pays and other costs, and many employers being priced out of the market, the system of payment is unsustainable.

Any plan must get a grip on the health insurance costs that are crushing the middle class. But a new plan must add quality and stop abuses, too.

President Barack Obama's plan will be more fair to individuals and stop the discrimination and harmful practices of for-profit insurance companies. The legislation will end the practice of denying insurance because of pre-existing conditions and forbid termination of insurance if you become seriously ill. It will allow people to keep their doctor and their plan if they wish, and eliminate lifetime limits on health insurance coverage.

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Seniors will be helped. The plan by Obama and the Democratic Congress protects their choice of doctor. Health care reform will prevent a scheduled 20 percent cut in Medicare doctor payment rates next year, ensuring seniors can continue seeing their preferred doctors.

The Obama plan will make preventative services affordable by eliminating co-payments and deductibles for preventive services in Medicare. The plan lowers seniors' prescription drug costs and brings savings to Medicare. By eliminating wasteful overpayments to private plans under Medicare and creating new incentives for coordinated, high-quality care across the health care spectrum, reform will extend Medicare's trust fund solvency.

A lot of attention has focused on the protesters at the town hall meetings, who are misinformed about what health reform will do.

The plan working its way through Congress won't create more costs for small business. According to the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation, 96 percent of small businesses will pay no additional fees. Small firms will receive a tax break -- and the costs of their plans, now higher than those of larger businesses, will come down.

Neither will the plan lead to government "death panels." What the plan does is pay doctors, not bureaucrats, to take the time to talk to you about end-of-life or life-extending measures. This only happens if you make an appointment with your doctor to do so.

Part of the problem with the public's perception of the plan is that they don't understand it. Who wrote it? Why are certain measures included? Does it really need to be 1,500 pages long?

This reminds me of the concerns of state and city workers about Michigan House Speaker Andy Dillon's health care plan for public workers here in Michigan. It was written and devised in secret. None of the people affected by the Dillon plan has had any input so far. All of the details have not been released. Yet it affects more than 1 million Michigan citizens.

Our reviews show that the savings intended in the Dillon plan cannot be achieved without a 15 to 20 percent cut in the value of benefits. Is that good public policy? Can the dental providers in our state absorb such a cut? Can our hospitals survive with 15 percent revenue decrease from more than 1 million customers?

As we finish the work on the health care plan by Obama and Congress, we should shelve the Dillon proposal so we fully understand the impact of the coming national changes.

All Americans need to take a deep breath about this issue. To admit that the health care system needs fixing is a good place to start over. Supporting parts of the federal plan that empower patients and doctors and take power away from for-profit insurance companies is a good second step. Anything that lowers cost (encouraging wellness and prevention) should follow.

The Obama principles do these things. Once the tea protesters quiet down and our Congress finishes its work, a plan will develop.

If we can keep our congressional members focused on the people aspect of health care, not the insurance corporations or the profit-making part, we can get a good plan.

With costs increasing by an annual average of 8 percent for many years, the price of our care is unsustainable. With working families feeling the squeeze of adding co-pays and other costs, and many employers being priced out of the market, the system of payment is unsustainable.

Any plan must get a grip on the health insurance costs that are crushing the middle class. But a new plan must add quality and stop abuses, too.

President Barack Obama's plan will be more fair to individuals and stop the discrimination and harmful practices of for-profit insurance companies. The legislation will end the practice of denying insurance because of pre-existing conditions and forbid termination of insurance if you become seriously ill. It will allow people to keep their doctor and their plan if they wish, and eliminate lifetime limits on health insurance coverage.

Advertisement

Seniors will be helped. The plan by Obama and the Democratic Congress protects their choice of doctor. Health care reform will prevent a scheduled 20 percent cut in Medicare doctor payment rates next year, ensuring seniors can continue seeing their preferred doctors.

The Obama plan will make preventative services affordable by eliminating co-payments and deductibles for preventive services in Medicare. The plan lowers seniors' prescription drug costs and brings savings to Medicare. By eliminating wasteful overpayments to private plans under Medicare and creating new incentives for coordinated, high-quality care across the health care spectrum, reform will extend Medicare's trust fund solvency.

A lot of attention has focused on the protesters at the town hall meetings, who are misinformed about what health reform will do.

The plan working its way through Congress won't create more costs for small business. According to the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation, 96 percent of small businesses will pay no additional fees. Small firms will receive a tax break -- and the costs of their plans, now higher than those of larger businesses, will come down.

Neither will the plan lead to government "death panels." What the plan does is pay doctors, not bureaucrats, to take the time to talk to you about end-of-life or life-extending measures. This only happens if you make an appointment with your doctor to do so.

Part of the problem with the public's perception of the plan is that they don't understand it. Who wrote it? Why are certain measures included? Does it really need to be 1,500 pages long?

This reminds me of the concerns of state and city workers about Michigan House Speaker Andy Dillon's health care plan for public workers here in Michigan. It was written and devised in secret. None of the people affected by the Dillon plan has had any input so far. All of the details have not been released. Yet it affects more than 1 million Michigan citizens.

Our reviews show that the savings intended in the Dillon plan cannot be achieved without a 15 to 20 percent cut in the value of benefits. Is that good public policy? Can the dental providers in our state absorb such a cut? Can our hospitals survive with 15 percent revenue decrease from more than 1 million customers?

As we finish the work on the health care plan by Obama and Congress, we should shelve the Dillon proposal so we fully understand the impact of the coming national changes.

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