My fellow Americans, I don’t want to alarm you, but the government is in official shutdown mode! On Monday, lawmakers were unable to agree to a budget and neither the House nor the Senate wanted to back down. The shutdown appears to stem from one source, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also referred to as, Obamacare. The Republican-controlled House is refusing to sign the budget unless they can add a stipulation that essentially pushes the ACA law back one full year.
Since the Affordable Care Act law was passed in 2010, some lawmakers have continued to criticize it publicly to any reporter or television camera that will listen. A common theme among ACA opponents is their love of the Constitution, though most Americans remain confused about what one has to do with the other. Last night on the satirical political talk show The Daily Show, host Jon Stewart summed it up nicely when he referred to the GOP/Obamacare fight as, “The End of America as We Know It for Reasons No One is Able to Clearly Explain.”
While the government shutdown is clearly about health care, how will it actually affect health care? In addition to the furlough of nearly one million civilian federal employees, the closing of national parks and passport offices, and the temporary stoppage of other government functions, this is what you need to know for the impact this will have on your family’s well-being.
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If it aint broke, don’t fix it. This is the homespun wisdom Ken Coburn is imparting to the Secretary of Health and Human Services after learning Medicare is cutting funds for his program, Health Quality Partners, seemingly, because they can. The program, based out of Doylesville, Pennsylvania, provides weekly nurse visits to Medicare patients who have at least one chronic disease and one hospitalization within the past year. It’s a program that was approved by Medicare and extended, with great success, but now due to confusing bureaucratic lingo, the program is slated to be discontinued in June.
Patients with chronic illnesses including heart disease, diabetes, cancer and even AIDS require long term care management. There is often no cure for a chronic diagnosis, but with medication, lifestyle change and other interventions, people are living longer than they did at the turn of the century. While some programs utilize crowded nurse call centers in different states for care management, the Health Quality Partners model of getting nurses out in the field to visit patients was revolutionary and the results, undeniable.
According to Mathematica Policy Research, the independent evaluator hired by Medicare to judge programs, Health Quality Partners reduced hospitalizations by 33 percent and cut Medicare costs by 22 percent.
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In the first presidential debate of the 2012 election, President Obama and former Governor Romney went head-to-head on issues ranging from taxes for the middle class to how much government should be involved in regulating Wall Street. This first debate held high stakes for each candidate, as historically debates can serve to predict who will get ahead in the polls and ultimately become the next president.
The ongoing health care issue was a hot topic during this evening’s debate, its significance underscored as the candidates frequently referenced it to back up their platforms. The issue deeply polarizes voters as they face the critical question of how they’ll pay for routine and emergency medical expenses.
The importance of how Medicare, Medicaid, and the so-called ObamaCare Act will function in the future could not be overstated for the future health of the nation, with Obama saying outright, “I want to talk about Medicare…because that’s the big driver of our deficits right now.”
A frequently-quoted $716 billion was one point of difference between the candidates, and a touchy subject at that. Obama took it from Medicare and transferred the sum to help pay for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, aka ObamaCare, a move he defended during the debate. Romney blasted the president’s decision, saying he would return it to Medicare and give states the ability to make their own decisions concerning health care for their citizens.
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