Opinion: Will the government really control your healthcare under ObamaCare?

One of the fiercely debated issues surrounding our presidential election this year has been around the Affordable Care Act or “ObamaCare.”

Even though ObamaCare is officially the law of the land, and many of its components have been implemented, there seems to be a significant amount of confusion and misunderstanding around it ”“ and Gov. Mitt Romney is one of the main purveyors of this confusion and misinformation.

During the first presidential debate on Oct. 3, Romney erroneously stated that under ObamaCare, the federal government would, in essence, control what kind of treatments people can or cannot get, and that a panel of experts would make this decision.

He has been driving this message throughout his entire campaign, and it has caused many people to misunderstand the nature of ObamaCare and what it aims to achieve for our healthcare system.

The panel of experts Romney refers to is called the Independent Payment Advisory Board, and this panel of experts is explicitly prohibited from cutting benefits or rationing care. Instead, it can only make suggestions about how much the government can cut from the payments that go toward healthcare providers. Countless credible fact-checkers and healthcare organizations have repeatedly tried to set the record straight, yet Romney maintains his stance on this issue.

In May 2010, The Kaiser Family Foundation published a great article explaining the structure and purpose of this board:
“The Board will consist of 15 full-time members appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate for six-year terms. A 10-member consumer advisory council will be established to advise the Board. The Board is prohibited from submitting proposals that would ration care, increase taxes, change Medicare benefits or eligibility, increase beneficiary premiums and cost-sharing requirements, or reduce low-income subsidies.”

As Kaiser notes, this board will only make recommendations on how the federal government can save money on healthcare expenditures with the Medicare program.

Think of healthcare’s future as you cast your vote

As the nation heads into Election Day, it is important that the public understand what is at stake for our healthcare system, and most importantly, the impact that your vote will have on you and your community.

Our current healthcare system is inefficient, and millions of Americans lack access to care. For the first time in our history, we have a law that will increase access to care to millions of Americans who need it the most, and communities like Boyle Heights will benefit greatly from this law.

ObamaCare is not a perfect piece of legislation, but Romney has not explained what his fix-it plan for our healthcare system would be. In fact, he promises to begin the process to repeal ObamaCare on his first day in office. That’s despite the fact that he introduced a similar state plan while he was governor of Massachusetts.

Repealing ObamaCare will leave millions of Americans and countless residents in Boyle Heights without reliable and affordable access to care, furthering the growing costs of healthcare in the United States.

International models show promise for reform

Legislative reforms like this can transform a nation. For example, in 1995, Taiwan implemented a universal healthcare plan and went from having about 45 percent of its people uninsured to covering 95 percent of its people within the first year, according to William Hsiao, a professor of economics at the Harvard School of Public Health and adviser to the Taiwanese government at the time.

Switzerland’s health system began to require everyone to buy insurance in 1996. It gives subsidies to the poor and prevents insurance companies from rejecting people for their pre-existing conditions ”“ all features of ObamaCare. There is no reason to believe that we cannot make Obama Care work. We have the resources and the intellectual capital to make our healthcare system much more effective and efficient.

We need to fix our healthcare. Its fate depends on who we vote for tomorrow. We’ve already taken great strides with ObamaCare, and one can only hope that we continue to implement it.

Victor M. Peña is a native and resident of Boyle Heights. He has more than eight years of healthcare experience working with healthcare organizations in Santa Barbara and Los Angeles counties. He completed his master of business administration degree with an emphasis in management and manages a department at Good Samaritan Hospital in downtown Los Angeles.

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