A Maine physician penned a blistering op-ed piece for The Hill that said the only reason the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is “failing” is because Republicans refuse to reign in insurers and drug companies and because the Act was never properly implemented to begin with.
“I am so tired of the blame game,” wrote Cathleen London, M.D. on Wednesday.
Critics like President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) insist that the ACA — also known as “Obamacare” — is “failing,” “broken” and locked in a “death spiral.”
“No it is not,” said London — who invented a low-cost alternative to the EpiPen rescue device when EpiPen’s makers massively inflated the price. “What is broken is the greed of insurance companies, their executives and shareholders as well as pharmaceutical companies and other large entities who seek to make money in medicine.”
She explained that she has lived in two states that followed the ACA to the letter and expanded Medicaid.
“In both those states I had affordable insurance for my family with reasonable cost sharing,” she said. “I saw this replicated in my patient population. Scores of patients would come in who previously had no access to care — productive members of society — artists, craftsmen, service industry members.”
As the owner of a small business, London said, she felt a moral obligation to make health coverage available to employees. She chided wealthy corporations like Papa John’s and its CEO John Schnatter who groused about the extra expense of taking care of its employees.
“I seriously doubt his bottom line has suffered for taking care of his employees,” she said.
Furthermore, she said, the ACA protects Americans from “junk” insurance policies that charge money but don’t cover anything. Republicans want to restore insurance companies’ ability to sell those policies.
“Now the GOP-controlled Congress wants to rip that away because the states, like my current home state, that did not expand Medicaid and did not create their own exchanges have horrible choices. This is not the fault of ObamaCare,” she said.
In Maine, Gov. Paul LePage declined to expand Medicaid when the Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that states could opt out of that provision of the ACA.
“My $900/month policy with $6200 per person deductible is the fault of Maine Gov. Paul LePage. His refusal to expand Medicaid. His refusal to setup a state exchange is why Maine has a broken market. This was repeated around the country,” she said. “The ACA was designed to work with expansion everywhere — not piecemeal.”
“Of course,” said London, “greed took over.”
The situation in Maine echoes that of Ohio, Georgia and other Republican-held states where legislators opted out of Medicaid expansion. Now, insurance companies are bowing out of the market and leaving consumers with fewer and fewer choices.
“Stop blaming physicians — we account for 10 percent of spending in healthcare,” she wrote. “Stop squeezing us. Stop giving us unfunded mandates. Stop driving us out of the profession by making us miserable.”
The way to fix the ACA is to stop cost-shifting, she said. Eliminate the for-profit market in illnesses, injuries and death.
“When I spend more of my day dealing with prior authorizations for generic medications than direct patient care yes the system is broken. A medication I can supply for $5 a month is not the problem. My decision making is not the problem,” she said.
She called it “beyond offensive” that the Senate has been holding its legislative planning in secret for “a bill that affects everyone without one stakeholder at the table.”
She concluded, When Republicans “stop their tantrum” about Obamacare, “perhaps we can work together to fix this.”