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new-logo25By Marilyn M. Singleton, M.D., J.D.,

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When President Obama hawks the wonders of the misnamed  Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, I’m reminded of those “As Seen on  TV” products.

True believers ridiculed critics of the Independent  Payment Advisory Board and its unchecked power to ration health care. They were  impressed by the $575 billion cut to Medicare, although lower payments lead  physicians to accept fewer Medicare patients. They cheered because 11 million  Americans will be added to the Medicaid rolls over the next ten years. While  Medicaid looks like is a good deal with its low co-pays, provider payments are  so low that only one-third of physicians accept new Medicaid  patients.

True believers scoffed at claims of loss of privacy.  After the NSA snooping revelations, a Pew survey revealed that 70 percent of  Americans believe the government is using data for purposes other than fighting  terrorism. Not only could unethical employees misuse health and financial  information, the health “Data Hub” can be shared among seven federal agencies  for ill-defined “routine uses.” According to a former HHS general counsel, the  federal government’s computer program for insurance exchanges lacks privacy  safeguards and could expose applicants to identity theft.

President Obama has repeatedly promised that “if you  like your health care plan, you can keep it.” Even his Praetorian Guard has now  defected. The National Treasury Employees Union—which represents the IRS folks  who are ultimately in charge of ObamaCare—does not want its members to be  “pushed out” of the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program and into the  insurance exchanges.

Candidate Obama promised: “If you  already have health insurance, the only thing that will change for you under  this plan is that you will spend less on premiums.” Au contraire.  Insurance premiums have risen an average of 30 percent since ObamaCare’s  enactment. In Orange County, California, premiums for a 25-year-old in good  health will rise by 95 percent.

Insurance will cost less for the  lucky 26 million Americans who are eligible for health insurance exchange  subsidies that can pay more than half the cost of policies. Subsidies—paid  directly to insurance companies—are available for those with incomes from 138%  ($15,415 for individuals; $29,326 for a family of four) to 400% ($45,960 for  individuals; $94,200 for a family of four) of the poverty level. The ACA was to  have employers report whether they were offering employees “affordable” care.  Now with the employer mandate delayed, exchanges may accept applicants’  statements that they qualify for subsidies without further  verification.

Another wrinkle in the program  could limit access to care. If enrollees pay one month’s premium, exchanges must  provide a grace period of three consecutive months during which coverage cannot  be terminated. However, insurers are only required to pay claims during the  first 30 days of the grace period.

Thus, patients with valid  insurance cards in hand can seek treatment at a doctor’s office on day 31  through 90 of the grace period. When the physician in good faith submits a claim  to the insurer, the claim can be denied. Although the physician can bill the  patient, realistically, many patients simply will not pay. Chalk up another win  for the insurance industry, which has off-loaded two-thirds of the risk of  nonpayment onto physicians.

ObamaCare ignores human nature.  Despite the claimed efforts to have patients adopt behaviors that help control  costs, two recent studies in the journal Health Affairs demonstrate  that people do not change merely because you tell them to. Uninsured and  Medicaid patients reported that they preferred care in an emergency room to a  doctor’s office. For Medicaid patients the financial cost of an ER visit and the  physician’s office were similar, but the ER was more convenient. The uninsured  reported the cost of office care was higher because of additional testing or  specialist visits.

Another study revealed that a  majority of patients didn’t want costs to enter into their medical decisions.  Some participants even chose expensive care “out of spite” because of antagonism  toward their insurance company.

Hucksterism cannot overcome  reality. Government efforts at mass control are doomed. Successful reform  requires innovation, maximization of personal engagement with medical treatment,  and minimization of third party involvement. ObamaCare does the  opposite.

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http://www.aapsonline.org/

Marilyn M. Singleton, MD, JD is a board-certified  anesthesiologist and Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS)  member. Despite being told, “they don’t take Negroes at Stanford”, she  graduated from Stanford and earned her MD at UCSF Medical School. Dr. Singleton  completed 2 years of Surgery residency at UCSF, then her Anesthesia residency at  Harvard’s Beth Israel Hospital. She was an instructor, then Assistant  Professor of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine at Johns Hopkins  Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland before returning to California  for private practice. While still working in the operating room, she  attended UC Berkeley Law School, focusing on constitutional law and  administrative law. She interned at the National Health Law Project and  practiced insurance and health law. She teaches classes in the recognition  of elder abuse and constitutional law for non-lawyers. Dr. Singleton  recently returned from El Salvador where she conducted make-shift medical  clinics in two rural villages. Her latest presentation to physicians was at  the AAPS annual meeting about challenging the political  elite.

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