Health care, Obamacare, insurance reform — a collection of interesting links

I’m going to bet that the Affordable Care Act is going to become significantly more popular now that Americans are increasingly focused on the law’s practical effects.

I think there are some extremely problematic elements, but parts of the law have been broadly popular right through the debates, like allowing children to stay on their parents’ plans until age 26 and giving chances for people with pre-existing conditions to buy insurance. The individual “mandate” is broadly unpopular, but it’s not really a mandate — anyone who wants to can opt out of buying insurance and pay a penalty at tax time. As I discussed in a recent post, many will figure out how to avoid paying the penalty entirely.

Anyway, I could go on and on about all that, but this post is just to include some interesting links to pieces I’ve read this morning.

First a moving column from Dr. Mark Murphy in today’s Savannah Morning News:

To compartmentalize health care into a political football batted back and forth between the Democrats and Republicans loses sight of its most fundamental element. Health care is not about politics. It transcends that on so many levels.

It is about little Bobby having surgery for a lazy eye, or waiting all night in the hospital lobby after a teenage boy’s car accident to hear the trauma surgeon say, “He made it.” The ragged cry of a newborn, an old woman’s first step after a hip replacement, and each and every tear shed over lives lost and gained are all part of the equation.

Health care is about all of us.

So when you hear the seemingly political debates and want to plug up your ears over the buffoonery of the election season, think about this: Think about the people you love. Think about the dedicated doctors, nurses and other health care professionals who sacrifice their precious time and limited energies to take care of others they barely even know.

The SMN editorial encouraging sober, rational discussion about whether to opt out of the Medicaid expansion, which would insure approximately 700,000 low income Georgians:

If Mr. Deal and state leaders decide that Georgia won’t take part in Medicaid expansion, some of these Georgians could qualify for a subsidy that will be available through Obamacare and then buy insurance through a special exchange that will be set up. Then they would have coverage — and avoid a federal tax they’d have to otherwise pay.

Hospital officials in Georgia say they have to eat $1.5 billion in expenses each year to treat the poor and uninsured. That’s huge. To keep their doors open, they must shift costs to paying patients.

All this cost-shifting makes it tougher to follow the money. Just where is it going? Is it fair compensation? Or is there a better way? That’s what Mr. Deal and other state leaders must find out.

From the AJC regarding insurance from those with pre-existing conditions, which concludes with an anecdote about former Savannah Morning News writer Amy Swann:

Amy Swann sees it differently. The 48-year-old from Augusta believes she would be dead without the health care law.

Swann suffers from a genetic heart condition that killed her father at 46. A few years ago, Swann quit her job to care full-time for her ailing mother, who suffered from dementia. Her COBRA insurance eventually ran out. Her mother’s teacher pension checks, which had kept them afloat, stopped coming when she died last year.

Without insurance, Swann couldn’t get the treatments she desperately needed. Her heart began racing. She became bloated — gaining 25 pounds of fluid.

“I don’t think people understand that your life can change forever in a second,” she said. “A broken leg will put you into bankruptcy.”

Last August, Swann joined the Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan after having no insurance for the requisite six months. Surgeons implanted a defibrillator in her chest late last year, and Swann said she’ll likely need a heart transplant at some point.

“I have to hang on to this insurance no matter what happens,” she said. “If President Obama had not pushed these policies through, I would be a dead girl walking.”

And from another AP piece, Mass. health law may bode well for federal law: A

An additional 400,000 individuals have gained insurance since 2006, meaning about 98 percent of residents have coverage.

A recent study by the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation found that between 2006 and 2010, the use of emergency rooms for non-emergency reasons fell nearly 4 percent. That was a key goal of the law, since using emergency rooms for routine care is far more expensive than visiting a doctor.

State health officials also point to what they say are increases in mammograms, colon cancer screenings and prenatal care visits and a 150,000-person reduction in the number of smokers after the state expanded coverage for smoking cessation programs.

“Since Gov. Romney signed health care reform here in Massachusetts, more private companies are offering health care to their employees, fewer people are getting primary care in an expensive emergency room setting, and hundreds of thousands of our friends and neighbors have access to care,” said Gov. Deval Patrick, a Democrat and co-chairman of Obama’s re-election committee.

Another reason the law remains popular may be that so many Massachusetts residents receive insurance through work and have been largely untouched by its penalties. The Blue Cross Blue Shield study found 68 percent of non-elderly adults received coverage through their employers in 2010, up from about 64 percent in 2006.

So employer insurance coverage actually increased in Massachusetts since the law was changed in 2006?