Congressman John Fleming’s recent op-ed about the Affordable Care Act made several erroneous and misleading statements that warrant a response.
First of all, recent poll numbers find that the majority of Americans either say Congress should “wait and see how things go before making any changes” (35 percent) or should provide the Affordable Care Act more funding to better succeed (23 percent). Only about one-third of Americans believe the ACA should be repealed. Majorities do not want repeal — they want Congress to do their job and make the health care reform law work for Americans.
Secondly, Fleming refers to insurance cancellations that will not be happening since Louisiana Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon has allowed Blue Cross and other insurers to continue to offer their non-compliant policies through the next year.
Next Fleming makes a bunch of assertions regarding health insurance premiums, but provides no factual basis for his claims. That’s because he can’t — the facts show that health care inflation has been at its lowest level in 50 years, just about 1 percent on a year-over-year basis. Keep in mind the past 50 years have had myriad economic ups and downs, but we’re still looking at the lowest growth in health care costs since 1962. At least some of that has been achieved through new provisions in the Affordable Care Act.
Fleming’s next claim about Medicare is fear-mongering at its worst. While the Affordable Care Act does make changes to how hospitals are reimbursed for Medicare patients, Fleming seems to imply Louisiana hospitals would delay readmitting a critically ill patient. This is a shameful, near slanderous claim and certainly one that’s at odds with the Hippocratic oath that all doctors take.
In fact, the Medicare changes are actually helping to drive down costs and improve patient care. Across the state Louisiana hospitals have reduced their readmission rates by coordinating post-discharge care and other evidence-based practices. Imagine that — we’re reducing the cost of health care and helping Medicare patients stay out of the hospital. Sounds like a win-win to me.
But any discussion of Medicare and Fleming must include this pertinent fact — Fleming has voted to transform the enormously popular program into a voucher system that ends the guarantee of Medicare and replaces it with a coupon that may or may not fully cover seniors’ health care in their twilight years. The vote also included a provision to raise the Medicare eligibility age to 70. Fleming’s hostility to Medicare is well-documented and proven through vote after vote to dismantle the program.
I won’t bother to rebut the remainder of Fleming’s ACA claims other than to say his first point about jobs has been readily disproved by 45 straight months of job growth.
As a doctor, Fleming would do well to look at evidence and stop regurgitating Fox News talking points. The Affordable Care Act has already helped nearly 1 million Louisianians get preventive care, like flu shots and cancer screenings, with no out-of-pocket cost. The Affordable Care Act protects health care access for 1.9 million Louisianians with pre-existing conditions from being dropped from their coverage. Nearly 81,000 Louisianians with private coverage have received $2.3 million in rebates from the insurance companies.
Fleming wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act with no real plan to cover nearly 1 million uninsured Louisianians, and he wants to end Medicare as we know it. You don’t have to be a “liberal” to think Fleming’s beliefs about health care are disingenuous and dangerous.
Communications Director, Louisiana Democratic Party