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Editorial: Fixing Obamacare is the best option

Newspaper applauds U.S. Senators Manchin, Capito for stance

From The Exponent Telegram:

America has a problem — a big problem. It’s one that if we don’t truly address it sooner than later has the potential to bring our nation’s economy to its knees.

U.S. health care spending grew 5.8 percent in 2015, reaching $3.2 trillion, or $9,990 per person, according to the latest data from the National Health Expenditure Accounts, which are the official estimates used by the federal government.

As a share of the nation’s gross domestic product, health care spending accounted for 17.8 percent of our economy, and it continues to grow. Soon, it is estimated that we will eclipse the 20 percent of GDP threshold, which many economists believe is unsustainable for the U.S. economy. In other words, $1 out of every $5 you earn will go toward health care.

Yes, America has a health problem, part of which is tied to the aging of its citizens. The average age of the U.S. population is 37.8. The problem is even worse in West Virginia, where the average age is 41.3.

In addition, we suffer from higher rates of obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer than most of the industrialized nations of the world. Besides aging, we suffer from high-stress and sedentary lifestyles. Factor in poor diets high in sugar, fat and artificial additives, and you have a recipe for disaster — we are what we eat.

The U.S. Senate is considering a GOP health care repeal bill that will eliminate free and/or subsidized health care from 22 million poor, working and middle-class families by 2026, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. The CBO found that about 15 million people will lose coverage under the Medicaid program and 7 million will lose coverage through the individual insurance market.

The Republican health-care proposals in Congress would slash Medicaid to give tax cuts to the wealthy, health insurers and drug companies. Many working families in West Virginia will find it a lot harder to access health care.

Estimates of the number of West Virginia residents who will be affected by the loss of health-care coverage are as follows: 118,100 people will lose health coverage; 83,700 will lose Medicaid, including 26,900 children, 9,500 people with disabilities and 7,900 seniors; 2,300 veterans will lose coverage; 34,500 will lose coverage through the individual insurance market as these plans become unaffordable for many people without employer-based coverage due to lower premium subsidies.

In addition, millions of Americans who have health insurance through their employers can’t afford to use it due to ever-increasing high deductibles and co-payments.

There do not seem to be any easy answers.

President Trump’s campaign pledge to repeal and replace Obamacare immediately upon taking office has proven to be a much more difficult challenge, even with Republican majorities in both the House and the Senate.

It seems the key components of Obamacare that most Americans demand to remain part of under the health-care law — coverage for pre-existing conditions, coverage for dependent children on their parents’ health insurance to age 26 and no lifetime cap on medical benefits — are difficult to achieve while providing free health care to 22 million people.

Who pays? Those who are working or those who may be forced to go without coverage?

The disappointing part is that neither the House plan or the Senate plan address the out-of-control cost increases in pharmaceuticals, administrative costs in health insurance and health-care services themselves, redundancies in testing and procedures to limit tort exposure and more.

Our health-care system must convert from one that is primarily reactionary after the patient has become unhealthy to one that is proactive and based much more on preventive measures and overall healthier lifestyles.

We applaud both of our U.S. senators, Democrat Joe Manchin and Republican Shelley Moore Capito, for doing what’s best for West Virginia and holding out for a better fix to Obamacare.

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