Six Reasons Allen West Is Wrong About the Health-Care Law Being Useless

Congressman Allen West, along with anybody else up for election in November, is really ticked off about the U.S. Supreme Court's upholding the terrible progressive Marxist Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

West, however, is the only one calling it the "Patient Protection Unaffordable Tax Act (PPUTA)," which is a lazy acronym that is also pretty funny if you know Spanish. He tweeted Wednesday that it's a "tax law masquerading as a health care law," and a statement claims "the sad truth is this law does little to improve health care." In case you were thinking about believing him, here are six things PPACA does that improve health care that are, uh, improvements -- in case, you know, "poor people not dying from lack of care anymore" isn't good enough.

1. Insurers can't discriminate based on health status.
This one's different from the one that disallows coverage based on pre-existing conditions -- this prevents insurance companies from dropping you for things like acquired disabilities and actually requiring medical care instead of just paying premiums. Also no longer allowed: discrimination based on "evidence of insurability," which includes -- yes -- being denied coverage for prior domestic abuse. (Section 2703)

2. Poor people will have access to health care.
Already mentioned above, but it's important. If Florida wasn't gleefully opting out of the Medicaid provisions in the health-care law, Kaiser estimates an extra 683,000 Floridians would get insurance under the program -- and costs to the state would rise about 1.9 percent through 2019. Last week, Talking Points Memo found that the states that would see the greatest reductions in uninsured citizens were also the conservative states most likely to bail on the whole program. Is that not enough of a reason to like it? That sick people will get to go to the doctor? (Title II, Subtitle A)

3. People who have jobs with larger companies will be guaranteed access to health care.
This is the main tenet that has got people all riled up about how we're becoming the USSR and killing jobs and such -- the idea is that if you run a company that has more than 50 full-time employees, you have to offer them health insurance.

Maybe that's disgusting insidious government overreach; call it what you will. But as the proportion of taxes paid by corporations plummets compared to the proportion paid by workers, how far are we going to sink in the name of "jobs" before we start considering the people actually doing them? The U.S. is one of only six countries that doesn't require paid maternity leave, one of nine that doesn't require any paid leave, and one of 16 that doesn't require workers be given any time off during the workweek, according to Mother Jones. We've gotten so focused on creating jobs and being nice to businesses that our treatment of workers has fallen far behind the rest of the world.

In any case, this health-care provision clearly shows West is wrong in saying the law "does little to improve health care." He might not be a fan of how it improves health care, but if people go from "I can't go to the doctor" to "I can now go to the doctor," well, that's clearly an improvement. (Section 4980H)

4. No more death panels.
OK, maybe some people just don't care about uninsured folks. Try this one on: Contrary to what important people are saying on television, there's no panel of people who decide if you die -- insurance companies, however, could decide to deny a claim and then just ignore you if you wanted to dispute it. That sounds kind of death panelish. In any case, they're not allowed to do that anymore -- insurance companies now have to have an appeals process for you to dispute denied claims. Before, if you got turned down for coverage of something, your only recourse may have been to sue. (Section 10101)

If you think the "Independent Payment Advisory Board" is a death panel, you need to stop reading West's columns in the Washington Times. Though West called the panel "its own shadow legislative branch" and said it would reduce "access to care for our seniors and limiting available treatments," that's not at all the case: It's a 15-member panel staffed with health-care experts who develop plans to keep Medicare spending below annual targets. It had to be put in place because Congress has proven to be so utterly incapable at reducing costs and so beholden to lobbyists and campaign money that they had to be taken out of the process.

Congress can still override the panel, and they're not allowed to change prices or eligibility, and -- though West would have you believe otherwise -- they cannot alter benefits. They're charged with finding ways of paying more efficiently for what Medicare is already paying for. (Section 3403)

5. More generic drugs -- and more price competition.
The Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act of 2009 is part of PPACA and creates an "abbreviated approval pathway" or "biosimilars." Translation: It's easier to get generic drugs approved, which is expected to improve access to cheaper medications and drive down the price of name-brand drugs. Capitalism in action! (Title VII, Subtitle A)

6. It will reduce the federal deficit.
Oh God, the deficit! Oh God, the spending! West is adamant about cutting government spending. Startlingly, PPACA will totally do that. If you believe the Congressional Budget Office, that is -- many don't, but everyone else weighing in seems to have a partisan ax to grind.

If we go by what the CBO is saying -- and when it comes to every other bill ever, we have -- then the government will start saving money within its first decade, and, though the numbers moved around earlier this year, certainly in its second. The federal government is spending less, and more people are insured -- sounds like an improvement, no?

If this is an argument about what the government is allowed to do, that's a fine argument to have. But for West to say the bill doesn't make health care better is simply not true, and it looks especially disingenuous when he's saying he actually supports parts of the bill:
Democrats continue to play cynical political games by claiming a vote to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is a vote against helping people with preexisting conditions, against keeping children under the age of 26 on their family health care program, and against helping small businesses. Nothing can be further from the truth, as I have consistently supported these provisions and still do.
In short: West likes the most popular parts of Obamacare but still wants to bash the government from intruding on the other parts and raising taxes to pay for all this stuff. He characterized his (pointless) vote yesterday to repeal Obamacare as a "demand the United States Congress and President Barack Obama provide Americans with a plan focusing on patient-centered care, choice, flexibility, lower costs and on keeping doctors practicing and providing quality care."

That sounds lovely. So, Republicans, where's the plan?

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Rich Abdill