When Congressman Andy Harris spoke Thursday, Aug. 10, to the Cambridge Rotary Club, as reported in the Aug. 13 Star Democrat, he said some things about health insurance that are simply wrong.
It’s not a surprise that Dr. Harris is clueless about the patient’s experience in health care and in paying for it. Doctors typically cannot answer basic questions such as “is this procedure covered?” or “how much will that test cost?” I found this out a few years ago when my wife and I tried to comparison shop for several expensive heart tests that my doctor wanted me to have. None of the doctors or technicians who do the tests had a clue, though eventually billing clerks were able to provide some minimal guidance. In fact, one doctor who administered a test asked if I was the patient who had wanted to know what the test cost. He said he himself had previously had no idea.
So let’s look at how Andy Harris misinformed the Cambridge Rotarians:
(1) Although he admitted that the 40 million uninsured Americans (before Obamacare) was a situation that needed to change, and that Obamacare “needs to be fixed,” he is one of the most radical members of the House in opposing keeping it and fixing it. He has voted to repeal it and replace it with something that will result in millions of Americans being without health insurance again. He does not want to “fix” Obamacare. He wants to get the government out of the health industry.
(2) Although he wants the government uninvolved, he said he wants the government to limit health insurance company profits to “several percent” instead of the current 20 percent. This means the insurance companies would have to be regulated much as electric power companies and other utilities are. Wonder how all of his lobbyist friends in the insurance industry feel about this. It’s a case of an insider politician saying one thing in his district and another when he’s in the halls of Congress.
(3) He said that a single-payer system would mean that the system would tell you who your doctor is and how long you have to wait to see him or her. He’s lying. Medicare is the single-payer system that almost everyone 65 and older is familiar with. We know that it doesn’t work like that. Most people, including me, are thrilled to become eligible for Medicare because it is the nation’s best health insurance. Expanding it to people ages 0 to 64 is the smart thing to do, so don’t expect Harris to go there.
(4) He said allowing people to purchase insurance from other states would allow for “larger pools.” He’s right that the larger the pool the better, usually, because a larger pool should have relatively more healthy premium-paying users and relatively fewer sick people requiring expenditures for care. But in real life it wouldn’t work like that. It would be a race to the bottom as healthy people seek the lowest possible premiums – and those would be for policies that at least one state would allow that would cover almost nothing. People with health problems who need good coverage would end up in ever-smaller pools with soaring premiums. Until their money is all used up and they declare bankruptcy and qualify for Medicaid. Harris apparently didn’t address it, but so far all of the Republican alternatives to Obamacare would pretty much result in the end of Medicaid as we know it. Does anyone not know some tax-paying, contributing member of society who outlived her resources and in old age became dependent upon Medicaid? If you think you don’t, it’s because no one talked about it.
Harris addressed other issues – tax reform and foreign policy – and it’s clear he’s drinking the Kool-Aid on those issues as well. In fact, it’s nigh-near impossible to think of an issue in which Harris is on the side of common sense and the common good.