At an appearance earlier this month at the Rydal Park Continuing Care Retirement Community in Jenkintown, Dr. Valerie Arkoosh gave her insight and analysis of the Affordable Care Act, often referred to as “Obamacare.”
The 70 or so seniors in attendance listened as Arkoosh — a Democratic candidate in the 13th Congressional District — outlined the law’s effect on Medicare in particular, and healthcare spending in general.
“There are very optimistic signs that we’re starting to control our healthcare spending,” she said early on.
The law is a risky topic for a Democratic candidate to discuss: According to a Feb. 4 Gallup poll, 51 percent of Americans do not approve of the law, with only 41 percent in favor of it.
And the National Republican Congressional Committee regularly attacks the law as a Democratic failure, touting money siphoned from Medicare and Medicare Advantage, and pointing to thousands of people who lost their health-care plans as a result of the law.
But Arkoosh has a big stake in the ACA: She helped shape it.
As president-elect of the National Physician’s Alliance, Arkoosh met with lawmakers in 2009 and 2010 to provide her perspective as a doctor as they began drafting the law.
Since then, she has been regularly making appearances like the one on March 4, when she focused heavily on the law’s effects on Medicaid, Medicare and Medicare Advantage.
In general, the ACA establishes no co-pays or deductibles for wellness visits, and makes it easier for people to get preventative services regularly throughout their lives. In doing so, it strengthens “quality versus volume of care,” she said.
Eventually, Arkoosh continued, less Medicare money will be spent on people who need to “catch up” on treating health issues if they suddenly have the benefits after not having insurance most of their lives.
Even in the short run, she said, the ACA has “only very positive effects on the Medicaid system,” and “protects and strengthens” Medicare benefits. She also pointed to a recent editorial in which she urged Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett to accept federal money to expand Medicaid, citing studies showing it could create tens of thousands of jobs in the healthcare field and save the state billions of dollars over the next 10 years.
“That’s billion, with a ‘b,’ ” noted Arkoosh.
It also begins to close the “doughnut hole” in Medicare Part D -— a provision that forces beneficiaries who need between $2,930 and $6,657 monthly for prescription drugs to pay 100 percent of those costs out of pocket. Under the ACA, that hole is now $2,850 to $4,550.
The provision originally was written in “as dumb a way possible,” said Arkoosh, and one that the ACA is starting to address. Now, those in the “doughnut hole” receive discounts on drugs, and according to projections the hole will be closed by 2020.
While the presentation was generally well-received, some still had doubts about the law’s credibility.
“I do not believe the financial aspects of Medicare are going to be achieved,” one resident said during a question-and-answer session after the presentation. “The transition has been abominable and the leadership poor. The public is fed up with [bad] information or outright lying.”
In response, Arkoosh acknolwedged the botched roll-out of the online health insurance marketplace healthcare.gov in October, saying she was “pretty dissapointed” and “a little surprised” at how badly it went.
However, she also added that the “amount of misinformation [about the ACA] has been overwhelming,” and that many more facets of the law were enacted seamlessly.
“When people hear a set of facts, they are almost always pleasantly surprised,” she said. ••