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Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014 12:01 am

Davis roundtable criticizes ‘Obamacare’

Businesses frustrated with law four years after passage

Congressman Rodney Davis, R-Ill. (at right), opposes the federal health reforms known as “Obamacare.”
Photo BY PATRICK YEAGLE

 

Although the 2010 federal health insurance reforms have survived nearly 50 repeal attempts and a trip to the U.S. Supreme Court, the law remains controversial. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act contains a variety of provisions benefiting consumers, but the law remains unpopular with some of the businesses and hospitals that must interpret and implement it.

U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, a Republican from Illinois’ 13th Congressional district covering Springfield, held a roundtable discussion of business owners, hospital administrators and insurance providers on Jan. 24 to seek input on whether the law is working and what may need to be changed.

“I think what we need to do is come up with some common-sense solutions as this goes forward, to make sure this doesn’t hurt facilities, make sure it doesn’t hurt those who provide the care, and make sure it doesn’t hurt those businesses that are trying to grow,” Davis said.

Many of the consumer protection provisions of “Obamacare,” as it is informally known, are popular, such as requiring coverage of preexisting medical conditions, requiring insurers to justify rate increases over 10 percent, and allowing young people to stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26. But the law contains several requirements that irk some business owners and medical providers. Additionally, the law’s implementation has been plagued by setbacks and delays, including a proclamation by President Barack Obama that consumers could keep insurance plans that don’t meet basic standards of coverage.

Davis, who opposes the law, said he didn’t want the meeting to be a “horse and pony show” in which people opposed to the reforms gather to simply bash them. Still, Davis spent much of the meeting speaking against the law and used the meeting to tout his support of a bill he says would repeal and replace the current law.

No consumer advocacy groups, which are more likely to support the law, were present at the meeting.

Complaints about the law included the botched rollout of an official government website, uncertainty about how businesses should show they complied with the law, and even speculation that the law was meant to fail in order to push the country toward universal health care.

Jim McDonough, a commercial lines producer for Springfield-based Nicoud Insurance, told Davis that most business owners don’t understand their rights and obligations because the reforms are complex and confusing.

“I think the average Joes and Josephines probably need to hear something a little bit easier to understand,” he said. “If there’s anything that I would recommend that Congress should do, it’s to provide a simple explanation of who is supposed to do what, where can they go to get help, and if they’re not doing it, what the real impacts are going to be.”

Trina Casner, president and CEO of Pana Community Hospital southeast of Springfield, was one of several people in the medical field who expressed worry that the reform’s emphasis on converting paper-based patient records into electronic health records will be an unbearable burden on rural hospitals. Although her hospital already implemented electronic health records using federal grant money, she said the ongoing cost of maintaining the records will be high, and more senior doctors have to spend too much time entering data instead of working with patients.

 “I can tell you that this electronic medical record has not made the delivery system more efficient,” she said, adding that younger doctors may be more able to use electronic health records. Several of her older physicians see an ulterior motive in the law, she said.

“Their impression is we’re doing this and we’re keeping track of all of this information so that we can be watched and monitored and have someone looking over their shoulder,” she said. “One of my doctors said the other day that he feels like this health care reform has bastardized medicine.”

Michal Dynda, a doctor in SIU School of Medicine’s Family and Community Medicine department, said consumers’ desire for convenience is driving the push toward electronic health records. He says he loves using electronic health records because they provide faster access and improved capabilities like organizing patients by the severity of their conditions so he can focus his attention on them. Dynda said the high cost of electronic records is driven by opportunistic software vendors who know hospitals are a captive market.

“Unfortunately, it has to start somewhere,” he said. “We have to start collecting this data.”

Davis is running for reelection in Illinois’ 13th Congressional district, facing two fellow Republicans in the March 18 primary. Four Democrats are running for the same office, and one will face the Republican primary winner in the Nov. 4 general election.  

Contact Patrick Yeagle at pyeagle@illinoistimes.com.

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