In his typical shoot-from-the-hip style, Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming didn’t mince words in his address to his colleagues in the U.S. Senate on Nov. 30, when he stated his opposition to the health care reform signed into law by President Obama on March 23, 2010.
“I believe this health care law is bad for patients, it’s bad for the doctors who care for them and it’s time to repeal and replace this broken health care law,” he said.
In a speech entitled “A Second Opinion,” Barrasso, a doctor-turned- politician, cited a report that was authored by a Massachusetts group called Gorman Actuarial that examined how the new law is going to negatively affect some of his constituents in the state of Wyoming.
“This report says that in Wyoming, as a result of the health care law, the current individual market enrollees will see average premiums increase by 30 percent to 40 percent,” said Barrasso.
The individual market enrollees are people who buy their own insurance like farmers, ranchers and others who are self-employed or who do not get insurance benefits from their employer.
The reason for the expected increase is the high levels of coverage or “mandates” that he and others anticipate will be required by the federal government. Barrasso expects the government to require more coverage than is normal for those buying insurance in Wyoming. Typically, Wyoming is a low-mandate state, with very few requirements on insurance carriers to offer certain types of coverage. According to the report, any increases in policy requirements will most certainly increase premium prices.
In spite of looming deadlines for states to come up with a buying system or “health insurance exchange,” a specific list of “essential items” that will be required on a government-approved policy is yet to be defined by the federal government.
Although some supporters of the law say participants are going to get more insurance than they would otherwise, Barrasso argues that Wyoming residents will be required by the government to take out more insurance than they typically want or need.
“Which is one of the fundamental problems of this health care law–government-mandated levels of insurance,” stated Barrasso. “Many people in Wyoming feel they don’t want that level of care, which is why I believe individuals should be able to opt out of this provision to the health care law.
What we’re seeing in Wyoming is a significant increase in the cost—not the decrease that the President promised, but an increase in the cost of health insurance beyond what it would have gone up had there not been a health care law at all.”
The senator is no stranger to the health field. For 24 years he practiced medicine as an orthopedic surgeon in Casper. He also served as president of the Wyoming Medical Society and was named Wyoming Physician of the Year. He was instrumental in bringing low-cost health screening exams to people throughout the state when he served as medical director of the Wyoming Health Fairs.
“The president made a bunch of promises. I was there and I heard him,” explained Barrasso in a telephone interview. “He over-promised when he said people would save money under his plan. He over-promised when he said families would save up to $2,500 a year. As more information becomes available, like this study we just did, it turns out that it (health insurance) could actually cost people more than they are already paying for policies they are happy with.”
Citing “affordability” as a major concern of his constituents, Barrasso also expressed his concern about the “one size fits all approach” of the federal government’s plan that doesn’t take into consideration the unique characteristics of a sparsely populated state like Wyoming.
“This is a state of independent, idealistic and rugged individuals and we don’t want the government interfering with our lives,” said Barrasso, who only supports a plan for the state if it is run by “Wyoming people who are making decisions for Wyoming.”
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was signed into law in 2010 by President Obama. The law reforms certain aspects of the private run health insurance industry and public health insurance programs like Medicaid. The law increases insurance coverage of pre-existing conditions and is designed to expand access to insurance for many who are now uninsured. It also sets deadlines for states to come up with a state-run plan that meets federal requirements or to accept a plan run by the federal government.
A number of states, and numerous organizations and individual persons, have challenged the constitutionality of the law in federal courts.
Under the new law, each and every citizen in the entire country is mandated by the federal law to have health insurance coverage by January 2014. In the meantime, a special steering committee in Wyoming is working to come up with an alternative state-run plan to submit to the federal government by January 2013. Individuals who are not covered by their employers or a public program like Medicaid will be required to purchase policies on the individual market or will face a government penalty. Employers will also be required to provide insurance to employees or face a penalty. A choice of government-approved policies will be provided by the federal government in cases where states do not have their own “buying exchange” in place.
By Patti Carpenter