Signing Up for ObamaCare Was the Easy Part
At a news conference the other day, President Obama defended the Affordable Care Act and slammed Republicans for continuing to gripe about it. What else is new?
Well, midterm elections are new and they’re approaching. So a reporter asked the president if Democrats should campaign on ObamaCare.
"I think Democrats should forcefully defend and be proud of the fact ... we're helping because of something we did," Mr. Obama said.
It’s a safe bet that Democrats up for re-election in Red States won’t be taking his advice. But you can’t fault the president for defending his signature piece of legislation.
You can fault him, of course, for the way he misled the American people to get ObamaCare passed. But since we’ve been through this before let’s just say his many promises to the American people that ended with the word “period” turned out not to be true. Period!
So let’s move on to one facet of ObamaCare that hasn’t gotten much play. The part about how just because you have insurance doesn't mean you'll actually have access to a doctor.
Before ObamaCare, there were about 37 million Americans without medical insurance. It isn’t clear how many are still uninsured despite claims that more than 8 million Americans have signed up. That’s because we still don’t have a firm grip on how many of those 8 million already had health insurance policies that were cancelled because they didn’t meet the new ObamaCare standards.
So let’s just say the president’s goal is to eventually get everyone signed up; that he wants every American to have health insurance.
That’s commendable. But according to the National Center for Policy Analysis, “Many primary care doctors and dentists do not accept Medicaid patients because of low reimbursement rates, and many of the newly insured will be covered through Medicaid.”
So what happens to all those folks who are newly enrolled in ObamaCare's expanded Medicaid program? Doctors may turn them down. Do they wind up in emergency rooms – the same place they would have gone if ObamaCare never became law?
As hard as signing up for ObamaCare was, it almost certainly will turn out to be the easy part. This is how Michael Ollove who writes for Pew put it:
“ … Americans who have enrolled in health insurance for the first time under the ACA are likely to discover that having coverage doesn't guarantee them easy access to a primary care doctor, dentist or mental health professional.
“Some changes in the works, such as the use of new technologies and allowing mid-level medical providers to perform some functions usually reserved for doctors and dentists, should improve health care access in the long run.
“In the meantime people are going to suffer,” according to Linda Rosenberg, president of the National Council for Behavioral Health.
And according to the Association of American Medical Colleges, unless something changes rapidly, there will be a shortage of 45,000 primary care doctors in the United States (as well as a shortfall of 46,000 specialists) by 2020.
My guess is that if you think it’s hard to get an appointment with your doctor now, just wait. You simply cannot sign up millions of Americans for healthcare without adding tens of thousands of doctors.
And more bright young men and women who once planned to become doctors may have second thoughts thanks to ObamaCare. Some of course simply want to help people who are sick and won't be deterred by ObamaCare. But not everyone is so altruistic. So it’s a safe bet that a lot of other would-be doctors will be discouraged – by lower pay and by the red tape that is part of the new law. Who knows: They may take their intellect and go someplace where they can make more money with a lot less bureaucracy -- someplace like Silicon Valley.
Just wondering: Did the brain trust that came up with ObamaCare think about any of this?