The next month of broadcasting and blogging will be given over almost exclusively to the debate over Obamacare in the Senate. The bill will mean massive changes to the future of every American if it passes, and unless a major disaster strikes, most of media, new and old, should be focusing on it and the stakes involved. That coverage should also be specific and in-depth: What will the Senate version of Obamacare mean if passed, exactly?
I’d like to ask my readers and listeners for (1) suggestions on whom they would like to hear interviewed on this topic, both opponents and supporters and (2) what exactly you think the passage of anything like the Senate version will mean for you.
Seniors, how much more do you expect to be paying? How much longer do you expect to wait for appointments? Do you think you’ll be able to get the same level of service you are currently enjoying?
Employers: Do you expect to make changes in your group coverage?
Doctors: Do you expect your income to fall and if so, by how much?
Here’s an illustration of the sort of coverage that does more harm than good to the debate ahead.
Nicholas Kristoff has his typically very well-written column in Sunday’s Times, and it tells a heart-tugging-tale about John Brodniak. Mr. Brodniak has been living a medical nightmare, one that compellingly illustrates many of the woes of our current health care system.
But what the column doesn’t tell us is if the Senate’s version of Obamacare will do anything for Mr. Brodniak. Indeed, there is buried in the column an alarming warning about the Senate bill:
In August, [Brodniak] qualified for an Oregon Medicaid program, but he hasn’t been able to find a doctor who will accept him as a patient for surgery, apparently because the reimbursements are so low.
The Senate version of Obamacare promises a big expansion of Medicaid-like coverage for the poor and near-poor, but will it simply worsen the already large and growing problem of providers refusing to treat patients whose coverage simply doesn’t provide enough of a reimbursement to make it worth a doctor’s while to treat? This single sentence in Kristoff’s column hints at and then abandons the crucial issue of reimbursement rates, but if these are pushed too low, doctors will simply refuse to treat patients that cannot help them pay the overhead or make a living. As the Investors Business Daily poll of 10 weeks ago showed, doctors will simply leave the field rather than work for reimbursement rates that drive them towards longer and longer hours for declining income and lousy quality of life. Mr. Brodniak’s situation won’t be improved by a bill that shatters the current system and drives providers from the profession.
That’s the real question in the debate ahead, one every senator even those from the hard left have got to ask themselves: Are they making the system better or just scoring political points? Right now, as Charles Krauthammer argued on Friday, the answer is very clearly the latter. I’d like to see Nicholas Kristoff follow up with another column about Mr. Brodniak, one that tells us how the Senate bill will work to improve his life, and if so when? One that will also tell us the impact of the Senate bill on his one-time employer as well as on the doctors that will be treating him if the new system arrives, as well as on the economics of the hospitals in his area, or the medical research that ultimately allows for any sort of new cure or innovation in treatment.
I’ll be happy to interview any credentialed advocate who wants to defend the bill on the Senate floor, because that is the only question that matters right now. We know there are problems, but will the senate version of Obamacare fix them? If the answer is either “no” or “we don’t know,” or even “there’s a good chance it will help some people while hurting others,” it is not just a lousy bill, but an immoral one, a feel-good bit of posturing that won’t help Mr. Brodniak, and may in fact condemn millions more to the same scarcity that he is presently experiencing.
So, please send along your e-mails suggesting experts and predicting your own personal outcomes. The e-mail box is firstname.lastname@example.org.