Affordable Care Act Future Could Be Decided Next Year

President-elect Trump called for its repeal during the election campaign.

Frederick, Md (KM)  The future of the Affordable Care Act, often known as “Obamacare,” could be decided next year. During the 2016 election campaign, Republican candidate Donald Trump joined other Republicans calling for its repeal.

Dr. John Vitariello, the President of the Frederick County Medical Society, hopes the President-elect and the GOP-dominated Congress manage  to keep some of the good parts of the law. He says the ACA provided additional patients for physicians, and said that children could stay on their parents’ health care plans up until they’re 26. It also says that insurance companies could not refuse to provide coverage to individuals with pre-existing conditions.

But Dr. Vitariello said the Affordable Care Act is expensive, costing more than  $1-trillion, and took $716-billion from the Medicare Program. He noted a lot of insurance companies, including Aetna and United Health Care, pulled out of the state exchanges.

He says one change that could be made is expanding Medicaid by increasing the threshold for coverage from 138% of the poverty rate to 160% “I think the Children’s CHIP Act–the Children’s Health Insurance Plan–should be left intact. Kids with cancer, kidney disease, heart disease, maintain them on a Medicaid-type program,” says Dr. Vitariello.

In addition, he says give insurance companies an opportunity to compete in other states. “You could have companies form Oregon, Maine, Alabama compete with patients here in Maryland. Right now, they don’t really compete,” Dr. Vitariello says.

That could happen if health insurance networks are allowed to compete across the country. They can do it within each state, but they need to be incorporated in each state. “If you make it a national standard, then you can bring companies in to compete against each other,” he says.

In addition, Dr. Vitariello says let the federal government negotiate with insurance companies, pharmaceutical firms and device companies to help bring down the prices. “And if the companies are brought to the table with good negotiators, and someone has some business sense–maybe a Donald Trump–and if they can sit down and figure out how to cut back costs and reduce medical malpractice, and look at fraud–there is fraud out there, very little by doctors and nurses but a lot by fraudulent people saying they’re doctors, etc.–and you improve that, I think you can work out a deal,” he says.

There could also be a transition period for individuals who purchased their health insurance on the state exchanges, he says.

But when Congress and the new President work on new legislation, or revise the current law, Dr. Vitariello urges legislators not to let the process become as bitter as the 2016 election. “Give the Democrats and the people who worked hard on this bill, have them save face,” he says. “Number two, let the Republicans come across as compassionate, saying we want to help these people in need. Let the American public see that they’re just as compassionate as the Democrats.”

He says everyone needs to compromise. “Let each side get a little benefit out of this, a little positive press,” says Dr. Vitariello. “And let them work out a hybrid program which is affordable, comprehensive and available to all of us. And make some changes here.”

As Congress and the new President work this out, citizens are urged to get involved and let their representatives know how they feel, he says.

By Kevin McManus