Why We Should Repeal Obamacare and not Replace It with Another Insurance Plan: Thinking Out of the Box for a Health Care Solution

by Carol A Westbrook

Before you, progressive reader, quit in disgust after reading the title, or you, conservative reader, quit in disgust after reading a few more paragraphs, please hear me out. I'm proposing that we repeal Obamacare (The Affordable Care Act, ACA) but not replace it with another medical insurance program. Instead, I propose that we re-think the entire concept of how we provide health care in this country. 110126_obama_sign_health_bill_ap_605

The ACA's stated purpose is "to ensure that all Americans have access to high-quality, affordable health care." Regardless of whether or not you believe good health is a fundamental human right, it is inexcusable for an affluent, first world country like ours not to provide it for its citizens. The good health of our nation is vitally important to its success, guaranteeing as it does a capable workforce, a strong military, and a healthy upcoming generation. However, I have seen the results of Obamacare from many perspectives, including that of a physician provider in a rural community, as well as that of a personal user of both insurance and Medicare. I do not believe the ACA succeeded in meeting its objectives.

It is true that the ACA provided health care insurance for millions of Americans who didn't have it previously, expanded Medicaid for the uninsured, got rid of the pre-existing condition exclusions, allowed our grown adult children to remain on our policies longer, and started the ball rolling on electronic records. These are great results.

GTY-Obamacare2-MEM-161222_12x5_1600But the ACA also caused the cost of health insurance to skyrocket, caused many people to lose their coverage, and, for some, their jobs. It forced many small doctors' practices to close, especially in rural areas, resulting in an overall decline in the quality of care in many regions. It limited patients' choices of physicians and hospitals, separating patients from their longstanding doctors. There were no checks on health care costs, which even today continue to increase. But worst of all, it mandated that our health care would be taken out of the hands of doctors and put into the hand businessmen–the insurance companies.

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Third World Medicine in a First World Town

by Carol A. Westbrook

On Wednesday evenings, I volunteer at a free clinic. For a few hours I become a primary care doc in an urban setting, instead of a high-priced oncologist in a modern medical center.

Our clinic, The Care and Concern Clinic, in Pittston, PA, opens weekly at 5:30 pm, and closes when we have finished seeing our 30 to 40 walk-ins. We make no appointments, and we ask for no payments, insurance or Medicare. We can do this because our overhead costs are low, as our space is donated by a church, and all of our staff are unpaid volunteers, from docs to nurses to clerks and social workers. We use our funds to purchase medications, and to pay for lab tests and X-rays, and provide them without charge to our patients as needed, though we have to be sparing in their use, because we have to make sure there is enough to go around. We are a nonprofit supported by charitable donations, and we have a tight budget.

Practicing medicine at C&C is a breath of fresh air for me. I see a sick patient, figure out what's wrong, treat it, make sure the patient gets follow-up, and spend as much time as needed for questions and reassurance. I try to keep the patient's prescription costs as low as possible. I rely on my clinical judgment rather than X-rays or blood tests whenever possible. I don't have to order every possible test to make sure I don't get sued. I write my chart notes and prescriptions by hand, because we don't have electronic records. I don't have to bill, or code my level of service, or fill out innumerable forms. I don't have to turn a patient away for the wrong insurance. I don't have quotas to fill. For one evening a week, I can practice medicine the old fashioned way–by spending my time with the patient instead of with the paperwork.

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