This is the seventh story of an 11-article series leading up to the Nov. 6 presidential election that will break down the issues dominating political debates. Check back next Thursday for our segment on taxes.
If you have a pre-existing medical condition, finding a health care provider that will cover you can be tough.
President Barack Obama says the health care system America uses isn’t working, but Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney says Obama’s changes are not fixing it.
According to Romney’s website, letting the states make health care decisions is key, but two years ago, Obama signed an act that would expand federal government aid, among other things.
A Sept. 26 Associated Press article said Obama often sites the health care law Romney spearheaded as governor of Massachusetts as the framework of his own federal health care law.
Diagnosed with cancer and need treatment? Suffer from diabetes? If you’re covered at all, expect to pay a higher premium because you’re a higher risk and will cost the insurance companies more.
Romney wants to prevent discrimination among those individuals by insurance companies. Universal health care is necessary, Romney recently told NBC News when he was in Ohio, and it was something he says he was able to achieve in Massachusetts.
Hospital emergency rooms are the only systems required to treat people who aren’t insured or can’t pay, but if someone uses their services and can’t pay for it, that cost doesn’t disappear.
Jerry Friedman, adviser for health policy and associate vice president for external relations and advocacy for the Wexner Medical Center, said the insured pick up that slack.
“It’s the most inefficient and expensive way of care,” Friedman said.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 48.6 million Americans, or 15.7 percent of the population, did not have health insurance in 2011. Although that number is down from 50 million in 2010, Friedman said their treatment is costing insured families about $1,000 extra per year.
The government, as is, insures some people. Medicaid is provided for low-income families, and Medicare is provided for people over the age of 65 or younger people with disabilities.
According to the most recent numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau from 2009, more than 45 million people were enrolled in Medicare and almost 62 million were enrolled in Medicaid.
Obama signed the Affordable Care Act on March 23, 2010, and most of its effects will not go into effect until 2014.
Friedman, who has been with the Medical Center off and on for about 20 years, said one of the problems with America’s health care system is that it’s not preventative enough.
“The problem with the health care system as it’s constituted today is it’s less of a health care system and more of a sick-care system,” Friedman said.
He said the U.S. health care system should be looking at how to stop people from getting sick rather than just treating the illness once prevention is too late. Twenty percent of a person’s health is determined by the environment, 20 percent by genetics, 50 percent by behavior and lifestyle and only 10 percent by access to health services, Friedman said.
“All those things have a much bigger impact on our health than being able to go to the doctor and get a prescription when you have a cold,” Friedman said. “When we look at where we’re actually spending the money that we’re spending on health care, almost 90 percent is going toward that 10 percent … that’s out of whack.”
But Obamacare, as the act Obama signed has come to be known, is trying to change that, Friedman said.
Friedman said Obamacare has three broad goals: reform insurance, reduce the per capita cost of health care and expand health insurance coverage.
An individual mandate, which says everyone must have health insurance, will go into effect in 2014, but Obamacare has already begun putting some mechanisms in place to make sure more people are covered by then.
Under the new provisions, people can stay on their parent’s health insurance, unless they have their own, until age 26. Before, people could only stay covered by their parents until they were 23.
This provision is one that Mallory Kimble, president of College Democrats, said is most important to Ohio State students.
“When you’re 22 and you graduate college, you don’t know if you’re gonna have a job right away, or you might want to go to school again and you just don’t know if you’re gonna have health insurance right away,” she said. “It gives you more time.”
The individual mandate would help Medicaid, which is a combined federal and state program, reach farther. People under 65 years of age with an income 133 percent of the poverty level, which is a little more than a $14,000, would be eligible for Medicaid, according to Medicaid’s website. Additionally, those with an income between 133 and 400 percent of the poverty line would be eligible for subsidies on a sliding scale so they can afford to buy insurance. Friedman said that would be in a public marketplace.
Friedman admitted the policies have flaws. The mandate doesn’t include the 10-12 million illegal immigrants or those that are too poor to buy insurance but too rich to qualify for aid.
“The aim is to try to move towards universal coverage, but this is obviously not going to get that far because of the populations that are not included,” he said. “But it’s a good place to start.”
Romney does not agree. He has promised that the first thing he will do if elected president is repeal the Affordable Care Act. He thinks the states should be able to decide their own policies on health care.
According to Romney’s website, he will issue an executive order that lets the government issue Obamacare waivers to the states.
“In place of Obamacare, Mitt will pursue policies that give each state the power to craft a health care reform plan that is best for its own citizens,” his website says. “The federal government’s role will be to help markets work by creating a level playing field for competition.”
A Tuesday New York Times article said the Obama administration is already pressuring states to expand Medicaid, telling them a delay would result in a loss of federal money. But the article also says that federal health officials told states they could reverse the decision at any time. Drew Stroemple, president of College Republicans, said Obamacare has a serious effect on America’s economic outlook.
“When you look at it, you may say, ‘Hey, that might be a great idea,’ but then you look at the unintended consequences,” he said. “Medicare and Medicaid is going to make our national debt worse.”
As the run toward the White House becomes a sprint, Romney and Obama have been frequenting Central Ohio. Romney was in Westerville Sept. 26 at Westerville South High School and Obama plans to visit Columbus Tuesday. Further details about his upcoming visit were unavailable Wednesday evening.
According to a seven-day rolling Gallup poll, as of Wednesday President Barack Obama was leading in the polls with 49 percent, while Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney trailed at 45 percent.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
< em>Correction: Oct. 4, 2012
An earlier version of this article stated that Medicare is provided for low-income families, and Medicaid is provided for people over the age of 65 or younger people with disabilities. In fact, Medicaid is for low-income families and Medicare is for those over the age of 65 and younger people with disabilities.