Brinkley: Did you expect your health insurance company to guarantee your freedom? - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Opinion

Brinkley: Did you expect your health insurance company to guarantee your freedom?

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Posted: Sunday, August 25, 2013 4:45 am | Updated: 7:41 am, Fri Dec 20, 2013.

Let’s be clear, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) is not socialism or communism no matter how many times you hear the Tea Party and Fox News denounce “Obamacare” as such. While not perfect at all given the many political compromises required, the PPACA is making a big positive difference for individuals and families in our country, including improving their individual and economic freedoms.

Modern health care is complex and expensive. We live in a world of high-tech diagnostic equipment and surgical procedures, biologically and genetically engineered pharmaceuticals, and highly trained expert health care professionals, among other expensive things.

The financial system underpinning America’s health care industry is insurance-based precisely because care is typically expensive, especially in-patient hospital care and similar procedures. The high costs of health care make a direct “fee-for-service” system on an individual basis economically prohibitive.

The majority of healthy premium payers provide the funds making it possible for the minority of premium payers who need expensive procedures and treatments to get them without bearing the bulk of costs by themselves. Why do the healthy premium payers put up with this? Seems unfair like socialism, doesn’t it? Well it’s not because none of us know the future. Insurance companies provide, in exchange for a premium payment, the peace of mind that the premium payer will be able to get future treatment no matter their own financial resources.

How is the PPACA any different than that? It ensures now that by paying premiums almost all Americans will be able to draw on the pool of financial resources held by insurance companies and government insurance programs to get treatment when they need it regardless of their own financial resources. And it makes sure that insurance companies do not get to collect premiums without more reasonably providing the financing for health care as expected by the premium payers and their beneficiaries. No socialism to be found in that … only better consumer protection and fairer and broadened competition in the marketplace for health care insurance.

But it takes away the individual freedom not to have health insurance some argue … that’s socialism right? Wrong. A person can still choose not to be insured. They will face a tax for taking that decision though. The Supreme Court ruled that constitutional, just like the taxation of socially detrimental decisions to smoke or pollute the environment and tax breaks for taking socially responsible decisions like buying solar panels or saving for retirement. Anyway, economic and individual freedom is boosted by the PPACA. Americans are no longer tied to jobs or related health care plans out of fear of losing health care benefits or access to health insurance. That is improved personal freedom. Americans are no longer priced out of the health care insurance market if they are poor or do not have employer provided plans. That is economic opportunity. Americans do not have to face bankruptcy if they get sick or have an accident. That is risk reduction supporting more overall economic efficiency, not less.

Fairness is improved, too. That matters a lot to Americans. Insurance companies have to compete on an apples-to-apples transparent basis for your employer’s and your premium payments. And the uninsured no longer get to drive up the costs for everyone else by resorting to financially written-off hospital emergency room treatments for their health care.

Unless there is a better way on the table to get affordable health care to all Americans, not just those with good jobs and good health already, then PPACA should have everyone’s support. Let your representatives in Congress know that time needs to be spent now on making the program work better, not on wastefully expensive and futile repeal efforts.

If you still do not support the PPACA, did you think before that health insurance companies, who saw your claims as reductions in their profits, were out to protect your personal and economic freedoms? Think hard on that before you rail against “Obamacare.”

• Bryan L. Brinkley is a resident of Ahwatukee Foothills.

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