STEUBENVILLE - The Affordable Health Care Act, or Obamacare, was discussed during Friday's luncheon meeting of the city Rotary Club at the YWCA on North Fourth Street.
Dr. Michael Nesbitt of Athens, president of the Ohio State Medical Association, discussed the ramifications of the health care act and where it may lead. Nesbitt began by presenting a short history of how medical insurance came to be in America.
"In 1946 (the government) passed wage and price controls," he said, adding the result was companies couldn't afford to pay their employees, so they, instead offered health insurance policies instead.
HEALTH CARE DISCUSSION — Dr. Michael Nesbitt of Athens, president of the Ohio State Medical Association, discussed the impact of the Affordable Health Care Act, popularly referred to as Obamacare, during Friday’s luncheon meeting of the Steubenville Rotary Club at the Steubenville YWCA. -- Mark Miller
Companies that sold health insurance were eventually regulated.
"Health insurance companies were then able to contract directly with employers," continued Nesbitt. "That's when we lost all control of pricing."
He said those purchasing their own health care had to pay more, and interstate competition between insurance companies was eliminated, leading to group policies.
"Obamacare was loosely based on Romneycare in Massachusetts," said Nesbitt. "How has that worked out in Massachusetts? Not terribly well."
Nesbitt also said he believed the number of Americans without health care access has been grossly exaggerated, with many young people opt out of buying a health insurance policy, while others decline to take advantage of government-subsidized programs they may be eligible for.
"Only 11 million (Americans) are hard-core without insurance," he said.
Obamacare sets up mandatory coverage and health care exchanges for individual states, he added. However, "insurance doesn't guarantee equal access," said Nesbitt. "Money ensures coverage."
Nesbitt said Medicaid only pays a certain percentage of a doctor's fee, and it's difficult for physicians to raise their prices. He also said it was interesting Ohio Gov. John Kasich is eager for federal subsidies for the state's health care exchange, while the legislature was deeply skeptical. He added many hospitals also were in favor of Obamacare because of the revenue it could generate for them.
"For doctors it's a lose-lose situation," said Nesbitt. "Will Obamacare be cheaper? No. Will it work? That remains to be seen."
One issue was universal coverage for everyone, even those who lead unhealthy lifestyles, said Nesbitt. He said that could affect the affordability of health insurance.
"Under Obamacare, when you go to an insurance company, they have to offer you insurance (regardless of pre-existing conditions)," he said. "That sounds like a good thing."
Nesbitt said that again could lead to higher pricing from health care coverage, as those leading a healthy lifestyle are penalized by paying a higher rate, while those who don't pay a lower rate.
"I can say for sure (Obamacare) will be more expensive, cumbersome and come with unbelievable bureaucracy and you're going to see your taxes go up to pay for it," he said. "The people who will suffer the most are those young, healthy people. They will be taking a huge hit."
Nesbitt also said Obamacare would impact new hirings as well.
"The job market is terrible," he said, adding Obamacare would especially hit small businesses hard. "(Companies) are laying off and going to part-time labor, all because of Obamacare.
"We have a deeply troublesome piece of legislation," Nesbitt continued. "We in health care think it will collapse under its own weight."
Nesbitt said he believed a consumer-based system was the best way for fair pricing in the market. He added the U.S. has the best health care system in the world.