5 Common Fears About Health Reform
Consumer Reports, August 2009
Now that health-care reform is a possibility, the forces of opposition are gearing up. Anti-reform campaigns with names like Patients United Now, Partnership to Improve Patient Care, and Conservatives for Patients’ Rights are trying to make meaningful reform sound dangerous. Here are five of the worst fears you might hear—and the facts as we see them under the reforms we recommend.
FEAR Health reform will let faceless government bureaucrats come between you and your doctor.
FACT Private health insurance already comes between you and your doctor. And because each company sets its own rules, it’s hard to imagine a more bureaucratic system. Some insurers decide which doctors you can see, which hospitals you can visit, and what drugs you can take and still be covered. And they may require copious paperwork before approving a treatment you and your doctor want. Health-care reform would standardize claim procedures to cut down on all of that. And it would protect you from other abuses, like being rejected for coverage or paying exorbitant premiums if you get sick.
FEAR Health reform will take away the good coverage from your job.
FACT If you’re satisfied with your job-based coverage, you would be able to keep it. Employers who don’t offer insurance would either start to provide it or contribute to a fund that helps employees buy it on their own. Some small businesses would be eligible for subsidies to offset the cost. And every policy would offer at least a standard, easy-to-understand, comprehensive set of benefits like those your congressperson now enjoys.
FEAR Comparing the relative effectiveness of treatments and drugs will lead to rationing.
FACT This issue flared up because Congress recently approved more funding for “comparative-effectiveness research.” The term refers to studies to evaluate which drugs or treatments work best for different medical conditions and different patients. That’s one more piece of information—based on science, not drug-company advertising or sales reps pushing pills—to help your doctor and you decide what’s right. Consumers Union has long argued to better health-care information. For example of our work, go to ConsumerReportsHealth.org and click on Best Buy Drugs. You’ll find free advice based on comparative-effectiveness research into which drugs work best for some two dozen conditions, ranging from heartburn to heart disease. That’s not rationing. It’s just being smart. And if you suffer from one of those conditions, you may find you could choose a better medicine with fewer side effects and save thousands of dollars a year.
FEAR Health reform means a government takeover of medicine as in England and Canada.
FACT The system we support would look nothing like those in England and Canada. Both of those countries finance health care out of general tax revenues. England goes even further. The government owns and operates most of the hospitals. We support a specifically American reform that would build on the current employer-based insurance while ensuring affordable comprehensive coverage for those who lack it.
FEAR Health reform will be too costly; it will raise your taxes and could even bankrupt the country.
FACT The real threat to your finances is the health system the U.S. has now. A recent study concluded that today’s $2.4 trillion annual health-care tab would jump to $4.4 trillion by 2018 if nothing is done to rein in expenses. Consumers Union thinks reform is the best hope for getting costs under control. It would cut down on waste, overhead, and price gouging, and reduce inappropriate care and preventable errors. We fully understand why some people are apprehensive about reform: Any change is scary. But we also see the shameful damage caused by the current system. Americans deserve better than this, and can have it.
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