Is the Affordable Health Care, better known as Obama Care, really affordable? It appears that for many it has been exactly the opposite, especially in Lancaster County. In 2008 the cost of family health coverage was 17.8% lower than the national average. Today it is only 5.6% lower than the average.
The average cost for an individual per month has risen from $359 to $492. For a family it has grown from $902 to $1,392. Now if you are fortunate enough to be employed and receive health care as part of your benefit package, on the average such a single pays about $100 a month of the actual cost and a family $407 per month of these costs. If you must buy your own, without any company help, you are much worse off. And not only is it growing much more expensive, but deductibles and co-payments have risen and coverage restrictions have increased. And often you are forced to change doctors. Less coverage, higher deductibles, and increased costs - affordable health care?
Some of the selling points OF AHC are supposed to be that preexisting conditions are now covered and that "affordable care" is available to all. But if you don't purchase coverage, there will be fines for you to pay. But our local newspaper recently reported that there are still thousands in the county who haven't purchased coverage. And we have heard of one situation where they had to go to court because a pre-existing need wasn't covered after all.
It is also a fact that numerous employers have been forced to go to court to be excused from some required coverages or items that are in opposition to their religious beliefs. And this is America where in the past folks have risked their lives to come here just for religious liberty. But times and values have changed. The government has taken over.
And the AHC has also placed many, many new burdens upon busy doctors and medical facilities. For example, doctors are now required to personally prepare a report for their patient after each visit. These must now be done by the doctor and not by a nurse or secretary. And they are required to give you a copy of the report unless you are on their portal. What a waste of their time and of paper. Most of our reports have been two to three pages in length with only a sentence or two about the actual visit and recommendation. Think of how many trees and hours are being wasted to make this happen. I am also aware of one doctor who left his family practice to go with a medical group because of all the increased costs and requirements of AHC.
Now I must admit, I do like the new required portals. They provide a review of all your visits and test results. They notify you of future appointments. They list your meds. They remind you of needed tests and procedures. We also appreciate the fact that we usually get the results of blood and other tests online long before we are actually notified by the doctor. In fact, sometimes they have been available within a couple of hours after being done.
I also like the feature that allows you to correspond with your doctor concerning simple questions and get a response in 24 hours of less. We have used that feature several times, eliminating additional visits or leaving phone messages. And our doctors have been excellent in responding quickly to us.
In a related matter, a few months ago we found that some of our doctors were now giving us follow-up cards which urge us to use their portal to send a message to them in 3 to 5 days telling them how we are doing since our appointment. Unfortunately, many folks feel better and then just don't respond. We found out that if the practice doesn't have 5% or more of their patients respond each month, they lose 1% of their federal reimbursements. And our family practice has had difficulty reaching that mark. Just one more federal requirement from AHC.
My only complaint about the portals is that they aren't coordinated. In our case, the Lancaster General Health does include several of our doctors and their portal is very easy to use. But we also have portals for PAL, Urological, May-Grant, Parish and LOG. Our foot doctor may also soon have one. But some of these can be difficult to use and, unfortunately, your information is not shared among the various portals and doctors. That is sad.
AHC? I guess it is here to stay and we, as well as our doctors, will need to adjust to all of it, including all of its negative aspects. But there is one way to beat it - don't ever get sick or need a doctor