Is Obamacare “Medicaid for the Middle Class?” –A Muddled Argument
by Maggie Mahar
Yet another catchy phrase, “Medicaid for the middle class,” is popping up in conservative propaganda. What are Obamacare’s opponents trying to say?
Those who have latched onto this catchphrase make two very different arguments. The arguments actually contradict each other, but they have one thing in common: Both are untrue.
#1 ) Obamacare isn’t good enough because the coverage families will receive in the exchanges will limit them to a tiny network of providers.
Originally, conservatives claimed that Obamacare would be too expensive. Americans who tried to buy insurance in the exchanges would experience “Sticker Shock!” Now that states have begun to announce premiums, it’s becoming apparent that this isn’t true.
So conservatives have regrouped. In an about-face, they are acknowledging that some plans offered in the exchanges may be affordable, but this, they say, is because insurers are limiting their networks to providers who will accept lower fees.
Reform’s critics insinuate that “narrow networks” will exclude top-notch doctors and hospitals. The Citizens’ Council on Health Freedom (CCHF) calls exchange coverage “second-tier Medicaid for the middle class.”
Note that, while grousing about “limited choice,” CHCF predicts that patients will “choose” narrow networks.
When you’re fibbing, it’s easy to begin contradicting yourself. The truth is that people who have not been able to afford insurance in the past are far more interested in price than they are in the size of the network.
Moreover, many Baby Boomers already have embraced HMOs: they charge less when a patient stays “in network,” and the best focus on keeping patients healthy. I
In fact, when Consumer Reports published NCQA ratings of quality and customer satisfaction HMOs out-ranked other insurers.
“Narrow” Doesn’t Necessarily Mean “Not As Good”
Everything turns on who is included, who is left out – and why.
In the exchanges, insurers will be competing on price. As a result, carriers are pushing back against providers that over-charge – including brand-name hospitals that demand far more for very simple procedures.
The push-back could help rein in health care inflation: “As narrow networks continue to exclude high-priced, academic hospitals … we expect they will consider re-pricing,” says Jenny Kerr, Market Analyst at HealthLeaders-InterStudy.
Both insurers and “employers are sending a message that they are no longer willing to pay for hospitals that charge higher rates for routine services to cover costs of their teaching and research missions,” Kerr adds.
For example, employers (in this case the city of Los Angeles) as well as exchange insurers are rejecting LA’s pricey Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Cedars-Sinai boasts a reputation as “hospital to the stars.”
Among the nation’s 50 top-grossing non-profit hospitals, it ranks third. But this does not necessarily mean that it provides superior care. In 2012 when the Joint Commission released its list of the Top Performers on Key Quality Measures, Cedars-Sinai did not make the cut.
By contrast, Kaiser Permanente’s hospitals stand out on the Joint Commission’s list. Little wonder that the exchanges are embracing Kaiser. Not only does Consumer Reports gives Kaiser stellar marks for quality, the premiums Kaiser will be charging California’s 40-year-olds for a Silver Plan are among the lowest in the state.
#2) Obamacare is too good
While some contend that Obamacare offers sub-par health care to the middle-class, when folks like Rush Limbaugh call Obamacare “Medicaid for the Middle Class” they are arguing that it is too generous. Under the Affordable Care Act, they say, affluent early retirees will be able to sign up for Medicaid.
For the full story, see the post I published on HealthInsurance.org earlier today (Just scroll down to #2.)
– See more at: http://www.healthbeatblog.com/2013/07/is-obamacare-medicaid-for-the-middle-class-a-muddled-argument/#more-2283