Michigan residents who buy their own health insurance through healthcare.gov face higher prices and fewer choices next year. The Obama administration says premiums for individual plans will rise by an average of 22 percent in 2017, and the state Department of Insurance and Financial Services says the average increase in Michigan will be almost 17 percent. In addition, four local insurance carriers are withdrawing from the individual Marketplace in Michigan.
The rising costs have put new scrutiny on the Affordable Care Act, sometimes called “Obamacare”, less than two weeks before the Nov. 8 election. Candidates in Michigan’s 10th Congressional District have differing views on the law and its future.
U.S. House Republicans have voted several times to repeal all or part of the Affordable Care Act since President Barack Obama signed it into law in 2011. A common theme of GOP candidates has been “repeal and replace”. Paul Mitchell, who won the 10th District Republican primary in August, says he’d replace the law with something that lets people buy insurance across state lines and have more control over how much coverage to purchase.
How would Paul Mitchell replace the Affordable Care Act?
“We have to recognize that there’s a difference between having health insurance coverage, and having health care. They’re not the same thing. We have to allow people to buy health insurance that will allow them to get the health care they want. An awful lot of people would be benefitted by having a catastrophic coverage policy, and doing a health savings account that allows them to cover their day-to-day expenses.”
Mitchell isn’t the only candidate who promises to repeal the Affordable Care Act. But unlike Mitchell, Libertarian Lisa Lane Gioia isn’t talking about replacing it. She says there’s no reason the government should have a hand in health insurance at all, and believes such intervention is responsible for rising costs.
Lisa Lane Gioia says her premiums have skyrocketed
“Personally, I don’t know about yours, buy my premiums have risen like crazy. I will not go to the doctor’s because I have no idea what it’s going to cost. And this is a frustration a lot of us are feeling.”
Gioia and Mitchell both have a business background. Democratic candidate Frank Accavitti, Jr. also owns a small business. The former state lawmaker says no legislation is perfect, but any law, including the Affordable Care Act, can be changed if something’s not working.
Accavitti says parts of ACA could be changed
“We need to work with the insurance companies. And we need to find out what the situation is with the law and with the Affordable Care Act that they feel that these raises in the rates are needed, and then we go back and amend the legislation to fix those issues.”
Accavitti says he would support moving the U.S. to a universal health care system over time, but says it has to be well-planned and not rushed. Green Party candidate Benjamin Nofs also favors universal health care, and says while the Affordable Care Act started out as a good idea, it’s become a boondoggle for the insurance industry.
Benjamin Nofs says ACA has boosted insurance profits
“They have raised prices for premiums and deductibles astronomically. They have been recording record profits now that it’s a law that you have to have health insurance. They’re basically just taking more and more money because they’re allowed to.”
For Nofs, health care isn’t just a progressive cause, it’s a personal one. The U.S. Navy veteran says those who’ve been honorably discharged from the military should be cared for financially, medically, and immediately.
“Whether it be a VA hospital, your local hospital, or doctor’s office, any health care facility that a veteran walks into, they should receive care as soon as readily available. They shouldn’t have to wait two days, two weeks, two months, two years to get the medical assistance that they need,” Nofs says.
As a veteran, Benjamin Nofs says he understands the psychological effects of military service, something that Democrat Frank Accavitti also says can’t be ignored.
“These soldiers are not just wounded physically, but some come back wounded mentally, too. And these services need to be addressed, and they need to be addressed quickly for these veterans, and their families can’t be left behind in the process, either,” Accavitti says.
The Department of Veterans Affairs says about 20 vets a day committed suicide in 2014, and 70 percent of them were not regular VA service users. Libertarian Lisa Gioia says though the government shouldn’t be involved in people’s health care choices, it is up to Washington to make sure veterans get the help they need.
“To send these boys and girls in harm’s way, our young men and women, and to bring them back and offer them nothing, to have so many veterans who are committing suicide, that’s heartbreaking and it’s disgusting,” Gioia says.
Whether they use VA medical services or not, Republican Paul Mitchell says veterans should have a greater say in their health care options.
“I think that veterans should have a health card just like you and I do. They can make a choice. Is the VA hospital convenient for them, or do they go to another provider?” Mitchell says.
Veteran, and all Americans, face the same questions about the cost of coverage if they buy insurance through government’s Marketplace. The Obama administration and the Michigan insurance department say those who qualify for subsidies and tax credits will see lower premium increases next year. Open enrollment for 2017 begins Nov. 1.