US Senator Burr is the star witness at the NC General Assembly’s “bash the Affordable Care Act” here at UNC Greensboro today. Unfortunately Burr, described as “the foremost authority on health care in the Senate” by one of the legislators here, is making some pretty big mistakes in his testimony. Amazingly, these mistakes just happen to contribute to his attack on the Affordable Care Act:
1. Burr, in explaining his opposition to NC taking the federal money to expand the NC Medicaid program, suggests that NC Medicaid program doesn’t require beneficiaries to be assigned a primary care doctor. He says if he could change the NC Medicaid program for the better he would require every beneficiary to be assigned to a primary care provider. Earth to Burr: NC’s Medicaid program already does that. From NC Medicaid’s website:
CCNC/CA is North Carolina’s Medicaid program. It provides you with a medical home and a primary care provider (PCP) who will coordinate your medical care.
As a CCNC/CA member, you are eligible for all the services that Medicaid covers. Being a member also has the following advantages:
You can choose a medical home with a primary doctor. A medical home can be chosen for each family member. Your local County Department of Social Services (DSS) office has a complete list of participating doctors. If you do not choose a medical home, you will be automatically assigned to one.
You can call your primary doctor day or night for medical advice. Check your Medicaid ID card for your doctor’s daytime and after-hours phone numbers.
2. Burr complained bitterly at the beginning of his remarks about the high deductibles in some health plans available on the health exchange under the Affordable Care Act, saying that these deductibles would make health insurance unaffordable for lower income people. While it is laudable that now Burr is worried about the deductibles people pay under their health plans, he makes a major mistake here. Under the ACA, individuals and families who make under 250% of the federal poverty level get substantial help with paying these deductibles, help that goes up with lower incomes. This makes cost sharing under ACA plans much more affordable.
3. Burr lamented how hospitals around the state were losing staff or closing (he highlighted Pungo hospital in Belhaven) as “a result of the Affordable Care Act”) He said Medicaid expansion – which he opposed – wouldn’t help because hospitals don’t get reimbursed under Medicaid as much as they get reimbursed under private plans. What Burr missed is the rural “critical access hospitals” – like Pungo in Belhaven – get reimbursed at a much higher Medicaid rate than urban hospitals. This rate is designed to cover all the rural hospital’s cost for providing the service and is done because Congress recognized the critical nature of the rural hospitals. So, Medicaid expansion in NC would especially help the rural hospitals Burr mentioned. Not to mention that all hospitals in NC support Medicaid expansion.
Together, these deliberate misleading statements by Burr add up to a good indication of how his presentation at the General Assembly’s “bash the ACA” committee went. It’s one thing to actually make arguments against the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid expansion in NC. But it’s quite another to make major misleading statements like this. Clearly Burr doesn’t care how far he bends the truth or what the accuracy of what he says – as a health care “authority” – if it serves his purpose to oppose the Affordable Care Act.