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Arizona doctors split on how to fix Obamacare insurance rates

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

PHOENIX — Two doctors who have first-hand experience working with Obamacare in Arizona are split on how to fix the rising health care insurance costs in the state.

Last month, it was learned that rates in Arizona would be going up 75 percent or higher for people who purchased insurance through the Affordable Care Act.

While some have echoed the cries of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump to repeal and replace the controversial health care bill, Dr. Terry Simpson said it isn’t that simple.

“You can’t blame Obamacare for the rising costs of health care costs,” he told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Bruce St. James and Pamela Hughes on Friday.

He said Obamacare is far from perfect, but its benefits outweigh its detractions.

“People tend to focus on the marketplace and what’s happening on the marketplace in terms of insurance, but you have to realize that Obamacare is more than just that single thing,” he said.

Simpson cited the ability to keep children on plans longer, the fact that insurance companies cannot charge more because of preexisting condition and the expansion and improvement of rural health care as benefits of Obamacare.

Dr. Jeffrey Singer would disagree.

“There is very little positive you could say about Obamacare,” he told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Bruce St. James and Pamela Hughes on Friday.

Singer said Obamacare has instilled the idea of more insurance coverage equals better health care, something he said is untrue.

“There’s this idea that you can increase health care by putting a number of plastic cards in people’s pockets,” he said. “Having a plastic card in your pocket is not the same as having health care.”

Simpson said that, under Obamacare, more Americans than ever have access to health insurance.

“Even though insurance is expensive – too expensive – health care is too expensive, what happens is we have more people that are covered,” he said.

Singer did not deny that, but said it comes with a caveat: He claimed there was a net increase of 16 million Americans who have health insurance after Obamacare was signed into law. But of those, 10 million received insurance through work as the economy bounced back and, of the 6 million remaining, more than 65 percent use Medicaid.

“Having Medicaid is not necessarily a good thing,” he said, adding that less than 45 percent of doctors accept it because the reimbursement rates are so low.

Simpson said people need to do a better job of deciding what basic health insurance should cover and do a better job of enticing young people to buy into Obamacare to reduce prices across the board.

“We would love it if more younger people would come in,” he said. “On the economic side, that would be very helpful to change those pools.”

The two did agree that health insurance should be similar to car and home policies: You pay for them, but only use them when you run into a major incident. Routine care should be paid out-of-pocket.

Simpson said he favors regulating insurance providers like utilities.

“Insurance companies have oligopoly,” he said. They squeeze doctors, they squeeze hospitals. They make a lot of profits for themselves.”

But Singer argues that companies already have limitations in place that are similar to regulations. He wants to see Obamacare removed so consumers can negotiate prices with providers, much like the current relationship seen in cosmetic surgery.

“The answer is not to have more plastic cards,” he said. “The answer is to have more direct involvement between the patient and the provider – a real marketplace.”

Simpson said the real culprits behind rising health care costs is not the government, but the insurance companies themselves.


Bruce St. James & Pamela Hughes

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