Affordable Care Act may hurt more citizens than it helps

Tony Wilson

Tony Wilson

I’m insulted.

And, trust me, it takes a lot to insult me.

But I, like many others, have reached my tipping point when it comes to the spin on the Affordable Care Act and its impact on individuals and families across the nation.

The latest is news out of Colorado where reports are coming to light that in November Sen. Mark Udall tried to pressure the insurance division there to downplay the fact that nearly 250,000 people received cancellation notices due to their policies not being compliant with the ACA.

Jo Donlin, director of External Affairs Colorado Division of Insurance, sent an email to her colleagues on Nov. 14 stating, “Sen. Udall says our numbers were wrong. They are not wrong. Cancellation notices affected 249,199 people. They want to trash our numbers. I’m holding strong while we get more details. Many have already done early renewals. Regardless, they received cancellation notices.”

If all of or even a portion of those Coloradans renewed early or obtained coverage elsewhere, you can’t simply change the narrative and say the cancellations didn’t happen.

In an email also on Nov. 14, Joe Britton, Udall’s legislative director, expressed concern over the media attention on the cancelled policies.

“We need to move on this ASAP — or we’ll be forced to challenge the 249K number ourselves. It is wildly off or at least very misleading and reporters keep repeating it,” said Britton.

So Team Udall springs into damage control instead of spending time truly working to help those 250,000 individuals and families. (Reports are that the estimate of 249,000 cancellations was an accurate amount.)

The spin doesn’t stop there.

Texas Representative Sheila Jackson Lee told the National Review Online in November that insurance companies should have sent notices to their customers informing them their coverage was about to get better, not that it was being cancelled.

“The cancellation notice was not the truth,” Jackson was quoted as saying in the National Review. “It should have been: We intend or expect to modify your insurance.”

Lee went on to say that she wrote an amendment that would require insurance companies to “tell the truth.”

Tell the truth — wow, what a concept.

The truth is the Affordable Care Act has helped some, while it has hurt a number of others. The truth is there has to be a better way. The truth is if people come together to discuss the issue — without agendas and without worrying about re-election — we can find that better way.

For example, could we help people gain access to care by identifying certain hospitals and medical providers in areas as centers of excellence or some other designation and have those who truly cannot afford coverage seek care at these facilities and offices?

The federal government could provide increased reimbursements to these providers for taking care of those who need medical care and attention. We could more easily control cost and bureaucracy by more tightly managing where — not what — care is provided.

Where would the money come from for these reimbursements? One colleague has suggested to me a slight increase in payroll taxes. Others have said the increase in fees and taxes under the ACA should be directed here instead of paying premium subsidies.

I would add an elimination in government waste and a redirection of priorities could help, too.

One of the stated goals of the ACA is to curb insurance costs long term. While the subsidies many will qualify for under ACA will make health insurance more affordable for them, the ACA may not curb the overall cost long term as intended.

President Obama promised an average savings per family of $2,500. Reports of what is happening in the marketplace do not support this.

In many cases, those who do not qualify for a subsidy, if they see any premium savings at all, are realizing they are going to spend that savings and more on services because of having to enroll in higher deductible plans and plans without copays for things like office visits and prescriptions.

Again, I would ask: have we controlled the cost of insurance if we are having to pay for someone’s coverage so they can afford it and have we truly provided access to care if families struggling to make it are faced with deductibles as high as $12,700?

We live in the greatest country in the world. We need to take care of those who truly need help, and we need to make sure they have access to quality care. But right now, our priorities are skewed. We can redirect. It would be nice to see our leadership spin in that direction.

Tony L. Wilson is a partner with NUVISION Financial Corporation based in Conyers. NUVISION is a subsidiary of National Financial Partners Corp. (NFP), which provides benefits solutions for companies.