Home Politics Transition to Obamacare sparks health care debate

Transition to Obamacare sparks health care debate

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As Congress shuts down the federal government due to opposition of governmental influence in the nation’s health care system, others are advocating that the government should have more control over health care policies.

One such person is Deborah Thorne, an associate professor of sociology at Ohio University. Thorne participated in a recent public forum that discussed the incoming ramifications of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

The forum was held on Sept. 11 and was sponsored by a single payer advocate group known as Single Payer Action Network (SPAN) Ohio. Thus, the forum’s conversation also consisted of the possible benefits a single payer healthcare system would bring.

The ACA, which went into action on Oct. 1, will eventually require all American citizens to have health insurance. Thorne told The New Political that SPAN Ohio director, Debbie Silverstein, believes that the new law is “a step in the right direction,” but that the government can do more.

“Single payer is essentially universal health care, and you cut out the insurance companies. There’s no middle person there,” Thorne said. “[Silverstein said] that a single payer system would be more beneficial and more effective than the system that is now in place with the Affordable Care Act.”

Thorne’s area of expertise lies in knowing the relationship between bankruptcy and medical debt in the United States. She discussed her knowledge at the forum, much of it derived from a first-of-its-kind project for which she is the co-principal investigator. The project is entitled the Consumer Bankruptcy Project.

“The Consumer Bankruptcy Project has been studying who files for bankruptcy and why since 1981,” Thorne said. “What we have found is the second most common reason for filing for bankruptcy—about 62 percent of people who filed for bankruptcy—filed because they had medical debt.”

Thorne cited multiple stories of specific examples, such as someone who had a heart attack without health insurance, and was forced into bankruptcy by the ensuing bill.

“People who have diabetes are very likely to go into bankruptcy,” Thorne said, due to the high medical bills associated with the disease.

Other diseases that present a high risk for bankruptcy, according to Thorne, are multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s Disease and cancer.

Of the 62 percent who filed for bankruptcy due to medical debt, “75 percent of those people had health insurance at the time they got ill or injured,” Thorne said. “They weren’t a bunch of irresponsible people who just didn’t get health insurance.”

These people who originally did have health insurance went bankrupt either because “their policies were canceled . . . or they lost their job,” Thorne said.

One example that Thorne provided was of a man who was a painter and fell off a ladder while working, breaking his back. Due to his broken back, he could no longer work, so he lost his job. He lost his health insurance because it was provided to him through his employer.

“When he lost his job, he no longer had health insurance to pay for the follow up physical therapy and additional surgeries, so he ended up in bankruptcy,” Thorne said.

The number one cause of bankruptcy, according to Thorne, is job loss.

Currently 12 to 13 thousand households file for bankruptcy a week, according to Thorne. That will put the total for the year of 2013 at 1.2 to 1.3 million.

“It was the first of its kind, thanks to technology, and thanks to the fact—I have mixed emotions about this—that when you file for bankruptcy, that’s public information that’s put on the internet,” Thorne said.

Although the cost of not having medical insurance can be steep, Holzer Health Clinic, located on 2131 East State St., stated that they accommodate the uninsured who seek treatment by working out payment plans with them.

Karrie Davison, Holzer Health System Communications Coordinator, said a patient’s lack of health care does not necessarily mean they will not get medical attention.

Davison also said that there will be no immediate policy changes within the Holzer Health System after the ACA is enacted.

“We might have an increase in patient flow, which is fine. We should be very well prepared for that . . . If there’s an increase in a certain specialty, then that might turn around into recruiting some more doctors, but right now we don’t see any changes that need to be taking place immediately,” Davison said.

The lack of needed change is due to the fact that Holzer Health System is a non profit organization, meaning that they do not turn people away for not having insurance. However, there was a time when the current Holzer Health Clinic was a for-profit organization. The clinic switched to non profit after merging with the rest of Holzer Health System in March 2012.

O’Bleness Hospital, also a non profit organization, will also continue to carry on with business as usual. Greg Long, O’Bleness Health System President and CEO issued a statement via email.

“O’Bleness is continuing to deliver the same quality healthcare to our patients. The Affordable Care Act provides more access to healthcare coverage and O’Bleness is well positioned for this.”

Regardless of whether or not the ACA goes too far or not far enough, Thorne is happy that at least it is “forcing the nation to start having a conversation about affordable health care, not health insurance; health care.”

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