By Rae Hodge–
Congressman John Yarmuth, D-KY, hosted a round table discussion on Monday with U of L’s Student Government Association.
In the Ekstrom Library, Yamuth explained his support for the Affordable Healthcare Act, informally called “Obamacare,” and responded to student questions concerning specifics of the law.
Yarmuth acknowledged that while most provisions of the AHCA won’t go into effect until 2013, the law has already had an effect on Louisville. “There’s 5800 young people insured in Louisville that weren’t insured before that are now insured under their parents’ policy,” Yarmuth said.
“The limit on annual caps has also had an effect already. The protection against being denied insurance for preexisting conditions went into effect immediately for kids under 18. Kids with diabetes, autism– none of those kids can be denied insurance.”
Yarmuth also argued for the law’s potential to improve the outlook of college students, “If you are at a very low income level, 25,000 to 30,000 a year, the most you’d have to pay is a thousand dollars a year,” he said, “It’s a huge benefit for recent college graduates. Now people can go to graduate school and not worry about whether they can find insurance or not. If you want to go out and start a business, no matter what you want to do, you can get insurance. People in your category benefit most from this.”
Joel Thomas, freshman political science major and former volunteer in Yarmuth’s campaign office, relayed the concerns of his peers in the pre-medical track and asked, “How can this law effect the salaries of doctors?
“I dont think there’s any reason to expect the salary of doctors to decline,” said Yarmuth, who explained the fee-for-service health care payment system: “What that’s led to is a lot of unnecessary tests and treatments. The idea is we need to try and get away from fee-for-service and compensate them for the outcomes they achieve and not the number of things they do. Nothing in the law that will necessarily dictate a reduction in salary.
SGA President Justin Brandt asked, “Is our healthcare system sustainable? Are Medicare and Social Security going to be available for us if we continue to provide these [free, preventive treatment] services?”
“Medicare is not sustainable the way its been going,” said Yarmuth: “Now that life expectancy is 80, three people’s work supports one Medicare beneficiary. 2.5 percent of all wages are going toward supporting Medicare. Those are things that right off the bat change the game of financing health care. We will never tax our way out of the health care crisis, but we will invent our way out of it. What we need to do is figure out how to pay for all the baby boomers that are coming into the system. Those kinds of changes their minimal changes that have to be done to social security to make it sustainable for a long time.”
Brandt asked the roundtable’s final question, “Is healthcare a right?”
“I think it is,” said Yarmuth: “But let me say it this way. If you’re 45 and you’re out riding a motorcycle stoned, I’m not sure society has the obligation to take care of you, but if you’re six years old, and you have terminal diabetes, and you have neglectful parents, I think it does.”
Photos: Caitlin Williams/The Louisville Cardinal