Given the impact of the so-called Affordable Care Act on jobs, prosperity, the economy, taxes, and take-home pay — it should be amazing to most Americans that health care as a topic was missing in action at the first presidential debate.
The second opportunity for candidates to discuss health issues — anything from Obamacare to Medicare and everything in between — comes this Sunday.
So here’s a key question: Will moderators Anderson Cooper and Martha Raddatz (or the audience) bring up Obamacare, will Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton bring up the issue on their own, or will there be crickets on this in St. Louis?
A federal rule forbids seniors from receiving their rightfully earned Social Security payments if they refuse to enroll or choose to disenroll from Medicare.
Obamacare is unpopular, and Americans are especially unhappy about Obamacare-priced premiums and Obamacare-limited choices. Donald Trump has promised to repeal and replace Obamacare with Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) and move toward a patient-centered health care system that promotes choice, quality, and affordability.
Hillary Clinton has promised to not only defend the ACA but to expand it.
So let me suggest seven questions for Cooper and Raddatz to ask the candidates — or for Americans to consider on their own, should the topic fail to come up:
1.) “Will you sign a bill that repeals Obamacare in its entirety?”
The American people are suffering under the high costs, penalties, limited choices, new taxes, and bureaucratic controls of Obamacare. They deserve to know what the candidates plan to do.
2.) “Will you stop insurers from interfering in the practice of medicine?”
By prohibiting catastrophic coverage for people age 30 and older, Obamacare was a boon to managed care corporations. Candidates Trump and Clinton should tell the American people whether they support or oppose the continued and growing monopoly power of health plans in the lives and choices of patients and doctors everywhere.
3.) “Will you repeal the electronic health record (EHR) mandate and penalties enacted within the Recovery Act?”
Doctors and hospitals without EHRs can face up to 9 percent in penalties on every Medicare bill they submit. The EHR has enabled unprecedented outsider access to private patient data, decreased face-time with doctors, imposed a third party (“scribe”) in many exam rooms during the confidential patient-doctor encounter, enabled profiling of patients and doctors, led to new medical errors, and created patient safety hazards. A recent study found that the EHR mandate costs more than $32,500 per doctor per year in maintenance and management costs. Many doctors feel they have become data clerks.
4.) “Will you assure freedom of choice by prohibiting insurers from auto-enrolling seniors into Medicare Advantage HMOs?”
Many health plans are quietly seeking — and receiving — federal authority to auto-enroll senior citizens into the insurers’ Medicare HMO coverage once the individual turns 65, a recent article in The Washington Post pointed out. Auto-enrollment is a violation of the person’s right to choose between “go-anywhere” traditional Medicare and the network-limited options of Medicare HMOs.
5.) “Will you allow every health care practitioner to contract directly with patients?”
Direct contracting is by cash, check, charge, or charity. This is the way Americans pay for everything else, from potato chips to computers to cars. No government agencies or laws should interfere with the right of every patient and every doctor to freely contract with each other. Doctors with direct contracts work for patients, not payers, and often at an affordable price.
6.) “Will you allow senior citizens to pay cash for care denied by Medicare?”
Current federal law prohibits Medicare recipients from paying cash for care denied by Medicare — unless the doctor has opted out of Medicare altogether. A participating doctor could be charged with defrauding the government if cash were accepted. This prohibition is an issue of individual property rights and freedom of choice. Patients have the right to use their dollars to purchase whatever services they wish from any doctor, hospital or other facility they choose without government interference — whether they are on Medicare or not.
7.) “Will you support the right of Medicare recipients to disenroll from Medicare without losing Social Security payments?”
A federal rule forbids seniors from receiving their rightfully earned Social Security payments if they refuse to enroll or choose to disenroll from Medicare. The next president can immediately rescind this rule. With 10,000 Medicare recipients enrolling every single day — and Medicare on an unsustainable path — the next president has the power to swiftly restore freedom.
The second of three presidential debates is an opportunity for Americans to get straight answers from the two major candidates on critical issues facing our nation. Let’s hope the moderators agree that health care is a critical issue for discussion and debate.
Twila Brase, R.N., named one of the 100 Most Powerful People in Health Care, is co-founder of Citizens’ Council for Health Freedom, a national patient-centered health freedom organization in St. Paul, Minnesota, and of a patient-focused initiative called The Wedge of Health Freedom,