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Federal Official: ‘Obamacare’ Redirects Money Already Being Spent

Series Part 1: The regional head of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services lays out what he calls the facts about the Affordable Care Act.

  • Editors note: This is the first of a four-part series on health care, following a Monday, Aug. 20, forum at Pheasant Run in St. Charles.

The regional director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said Monday at Pheasant Run that the money to be spent on the Affordable Care Act — referred to as Obamacare by many Republicans — already is being spent on the uninsured, mostly for care in hospital emergency rooms.

“Many billions if not trillions of dollars at the federal and state levels are being spent on health care for the uninsured,” said Kenneth Munson, of the federal agency’s Chicago office. “So the cost already is there, it's just not entirely recognized.”

Further, Munson said most of that care comes at needless expense — much of it is in costlier hospital emergency rooms, when if it had been managed before it got to be a health crisis, the treatment would have been far less expensive.

“For better or worse—and I hear both sides of this—the Affordable Care Act is not a (government) takeover of health care,” Munson said. “It keeps the system we have now — you have your (health care) provider, your insurance company, you have Medicaid and Medicare, and you have you,” Munson said. “This is not a government health system as you see in other countries.”

Munson presented what he cited as factual information that people should consider in the debate over the controversial Affordable Care Act, which seeks to ensure the nation’s uninsured received health care coverage.

Much of the divisive debate, he said, is occurring at an emotional level, and both sides need to consider factual information about what the act does and what it does not do.

Munson spoke during what was planned as an informative but casual “Health Care and Family Finance Forum” hosted by U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren, R-14th District, early Monday at Pheasant Run Resort in St. Charles.

Hultgren spoke only briefly at the start of the forum, which was attended by about 50 people.

Speakers ranged from financial experts discussing saving for retirement and managing those savings; a Social Security Administration official outlining Social Security benefits — from the layers of benefits to how one qualifies for them; financial advisors discussing maintaining good credit, family budgeting and saving for your children’s college education; and Munson’s discussion of the Affordable Care Act.

“One of the things people who talk about (the Affordable Care Act) do not have a great deal of factual information,” Munson said. “So my goal is really just to talk about the law, some things in effect, some things that will come into effect in the future.”

Munson said one of the greatest expenses coming from the uninsured is the treatment they seek out in emergency rooms, which is much more expensive. The problem, he said, is that by the time it they seek treatment, the cost of care has increased dramatically — preventative treatment, or treatment in the early stages of an illness, is not nearly as expensive as the cost of treating the problem once it has reached an emergency room.

He cited as an example Children’s Hospital in Milwaukee, where several years ago, the single-largest reason for children admissions to the hospital was asthma. “Realistically, very rarely should a child be admitted to an emergency room for asthma — if you were working (with a physician) to control asthma in between times, you would not see that kind of situation,” he said.

These were families with no health coverage or with high deductibles or co-payments. In those instances, by the time the child ends up in an emergency room, he or she is very, very ill, in danger of dying and facing treatment whose costs are much more expensive than the costs of trying to control the asthma in the first place.

The Affordable Care Act tries to address a number of these issues.

Related:

Mike Bruno August 22, 2012 at 09:34 PM
I look forward to the follow-up posts.
Mitotero August 23, 2012 at 01:17 AM
I am looking forward to parts 3 and 4. Part 2 was addressed in paragraph 4 of this article. Facts and accurate information will help steer the conversation about ACA away from the vitriol we usually hear or read. This was a refreshing post to read.
My concern: MEDICARE has not done a good job of preventing FRAUD(150 billion$). Medicare has NOT been proactive in informing its members who have NOT been screened for Colon Cancer. ( Private co. like CAREMARK call my parents if they miss ordering diabeties or cholestrol medicine). Illinois has 55% screening rate for Colon Cancer.Majority of people with Colon Cancer are medicare or medicaid group. Cost of screening is less than 2000$-but cost of treatment exceeds half a million$. When MEDICARE takes active role in preventing COLON CANCER,then I will feel satisfied that Govt.is taking action to reduce costs.

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