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Letter to the Editor: Don't believe the myths about Obamacare

In response to Hilda Bettermann’s letter to the editor in the June 12 issue of the Perham Focus:

There have been a flurry of scare tactics and myths spread about the Affordable Care Act (sometimes called Obamacare) by Tea Party-types who often use misleading or deliberately deceptive talking points. Parts of Bettermann’s recent letter attacking health care reform is one such example.

She states, “more expensive [coverage], and where health care choices are limited.” 

In truth, before Obamacare, health care premiums shot up more than 90 percent between 2000 and 2007, while the profits of the 10 largest insurance corporations increased 428 percent over the same period.

Choices used to be very limited, as well. In the past 13 years before the ACA, there were more than 400 corporate mergers involving health insurers, and this led to 94 percent of statewide insurance markets being highly concentrated. 

Under the old way of doing things, we let health insurance giants run amok and abuse customers, like charging women more, canceling policies as soon as someone got sick, or denying coverage because being a cop is a “pre-existing condition.” The per capita spending on health care was also about double for Americans what it was in any other developed nation (Europe, Australia, Japan etc.).

Despite spending twice as much per person than in any other developed nation, nearly 50 million Americans did not have health insurance, and another 25 million were so under-insured that they could not afford to get sick (the junk plans that were stopped thanks to the ACA). 

Does the Tea Party think people should be able to buy junk plans that cost money but don’t cover people enough that they still can’t afford to get sick or go to the doctor? Many of those junk plans were also partially to blame for the Great Recession. Harvard researchers say 62 percent of all personal bankruptcies in the U.S. were caused by health problems – and 78 percent of those filers had insurance. 

In the pre-Affordable Care Act days, the U.S. health system spent a higher portion of its gross domestic product than any other country but only ranked a mere 37th out of 191 countries according to its performance. Is this what the Tea Party wants to go back to?

Look, nobody is claiming that the Affordable Care Act is perfect. It should have had a strong, robust public option to drive down costs even more for hard-working families. It is better than what we allowed to happen before, and it can be improved upon. Recently, it has also come to light that MNsure (Minnesota’s state version of the Affordable Care Act) has led to a 41 percent decrease in the uninsured rate. 

The scare tactics and myths being spread about the Affordable Care Act sound a lot like the scare tactics and myths that were spread about Social Security and Medicare in generations past. Those turned out to be untrue, as will the myths about the ACA today. 

Shawn Olson

Alexandria, MN