Who’s buying the healthcare snake oil?
You had to be on a wilderness trek the last couple of weeks to miss the Catholic Church backlash against a new mandate of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare. Predictably, most in the media fed on the surface morsels, leaving you to dig deeper on your own to find the truly important points.
Let me get right to it. Wake up! Even if you are not Catholic, your freedom is being taken from you.
Here’s the short version. The Secretary of Health and Human Services made just one ACA decision, with many more lined up to come, mandating that Catholic hospitals and other church-owned entities be required to provide health insurance to employees that must include services contrary to church doctrine, like contraception, sterilization and abortion.
The kickback was considerable. In response, President Obama announced an “accommodation,” saying these church-related organizations would not be required to directly pay for these services, but that their insurers will be required to deliver those specific services free of charge.
Too many Americans these days can’t think past their own personal benefit, but if you think through what happened here you might be worried; you should be worried.
First, I am no defender of the Catholic Church’s doctrine, but I am disturbed by the arrogance of government intrusion into any church’s business.
Second, only government could come up with this solution that is a distinction without a difference. The “accommodation” provides the merest fig leaf of pretended adherence to church doctrine while actually circumventing church doctrine.
Third, the President decided to “allow” the church to do things in a slightly different way to “accommodate” the ACA law. The President decided what the church would be allowed to do. Why, thank you, Mr. President.
Think back please to the founding of our country, and what made America so unique that spread hope for freedom throughout the world. Heretofore, rulers had decided what rights the people would have, if any.
America, however, was founded by and for the people, and the people gave limited powers to the federal government, retaining the rest for the states and themselves.
Freedom of religion was a pivotal part of our beginnings. Our government’s reach does not extend into the church, but apparently someone forgot to tell President Obama.
If the Catholic Church had made their own free choice of this same “accommodation” to resolve this church-state dispute, I would not be bothered. But the Church’s power to decide was usurped by the President.
Whether you like or dislike the President’s “accommodation,” did you notice it directs private insurance companies to provide a specific service at a specific price of zero?
This is another unprecedented government intrusion, this time into the private sector, and of course nothing is free. Your health insurance premiums will go up to pay for it.
These are the things that should bother you.
This HHS decision was just one of many to come. Do you recall that ACA law establishes 159 boards and commissions, many not even yet established, that will themselves create new regulations to determine limits on your healthcare choices?
That should alarm every citizen, especially since human nature prompts officials to create ever-more rules and regulations that inevitably trample common sense.
Here is one example of what is coming, from a recent Wall Street Journal piece by Dr. Scott Gottlieb. He describes the committee called the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force (PSTF) that for the past 25 years has been an advisory board to physicians. The PSTF gives a rating from A to D to screening tests or preventive treatment, or an I if they consider the evidence too insufficient to be determinant. Sounds fine so far.
The PSTF is a board of part-time volunteers, making decisions very slowly, using long studies like the FDA, and as a result they are far behind conventional medical practices.
For example, doctors had been recommending to patients a daily aspirin as a heart attack and stroke preventive measure for decades before the PSTF recommendation.
This is the same body that in 2009 concluded women age 40-49 should not have routine mammograms. Since this committee is so often out of step and far behind, many physicians simply ignore PSTF recommendations.
But your doctor will no longer be able to ignore them since the ACA grants PSTF much control over the procedures doctors order for you. Soon, health insurers will be REQUIRED to cover preventive measures rated A and B by PSTF, such as colon cancer screening, without any co-payment.
Other screening likely to be required include hepatitis C, osteoporosis in men, depression in children, counseling for obesity in adults and for alcohol use in adolescents.
If all this sounds good to you, take a deep breath and ask yourself, “At what cost?” Every mandated service will have a corresponding upward push on insurance premiums.
As premiums increase, there is every reason to believe that insurers will try to contain runaway costs by disallowing coverage for preventive measures rated C and D, like screening for testicular or ovarian cancer, to cite just two of many examples.
For patients who cannot pay for it themselves, those procedures would be unavailable. Every new required procedure, even though they may be irrelevant to you, means some other procedures, even if they are vital to you, must be deleted from the coverage list to keep premiums from rising out of sight.
What influence do you have over this PSTF committee? None. They are not required to hold public meetings, they don’t have to disclose draft decisions before they become new regulations and there is no direct appeal process.
Hold on tight — many more board, committees and HHS decisions affecting your healthcare are on the way, courtesy of the ACA law.
This is all part of the fantasy of free healthcare.
In the recent media frenzy over the Catholic Church mandate, TV talking heads lectured one another about women’s “right” to free contraception, sterilization and abortion. I suppose in today’s world of feelings replacing thought, if you want something bad enough it becomes a “right” in some small minds.
I didn’t hear of a single obstacle preventing any woman from obtaining these services by paying for them herself.
The theory of insurance is spreading the risk of catastrophic loss among a large number of people, each paying a small amount because their individual risk of loss is small, like your homeowner’s insurance or life insurance.
But the socialists among us have conditioned a generation to expect our healthcare services will be paid for by someone else, even for something foreseeable and routine, like birth control pills.
Even though ACA is just beginning to take form, some businesses are already reporting healthcare premium increases of 25 percent or more. That is because new gifts from ACA we all love — like no pre-existing conditions and keeping your kid on your health insurance until they are 25 — are new mandates that have a cost.
Mandates are not free, not even when the President claims they are free.
ACA complexity has injected vast uncertainty into the healthcare insurance market, and insurers are covering themselves with premium hikes with more to come. A recent Gallup poll says 85 percent of small business, which creates 70 percent of America’s new jobs, has no plans to hire any workers, half because of health insurance uncertainty, and half due to growing regulation.
Businesses large and small are shifting work to part-time employees so they will not be required to provide health insurance to them.
All this from the first taste of Obamacare with loads more to come. And it all derives from the idealism of making healthcare “free” soup to nuts, cradle to grave, for everyone.
Maybe you are content with the belief the government will take care of you. You should be anxious that new gaggles of boards and commissions will soon start deciding which procedures your doctor may perform, and which ones will not be paid for by your insurance policy. They may even decide which ones you may not purchase with your own money.
The way to boil a live frog is to put him in a pan of cool water and turn up the heat slowly, and by the time he realizes he is in trouble, it is too late for the frog.
Wake up! You are being boiled.
[Terry Garlock lives in Peachtree City and writes columns occasionally for The Citizen. He has authored a book, “Strength & Honor: America’s Best in Vietnam.” His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.]