Panel grapples with health care costs

A supporter and opponent of the Affordable Care Act criticized the plan’s failure Thursday to address rising health care costs that are consuming more and more of taxpayer dollars.

“The Affordable Care Act is intended as true reform. I’m in favor of Obamacare and the Affordable Care Act,” said former state health agency chief David Hood. “But it does not focus enough on cost containment.”

State health agency executive Calder Lynch said the program is “a recipe for more cost, more debt” at a time when the nation spends more per capita on health care than any other.

Hood and Lynch gave perspectives in the health care debate during a Leaders With Vision luncheon, which also featured Dr. Fred Cerise, associate dean for clinical affairs at the LSU School of Medicine in New Orleans, state insurance department executive Korey Harvey and Dr. Michael Rolfsen, of the Baton Rouge Clinic.

The state has rejected Medicaid expansion and declined to set up a health insurance marketplace exchange instead, opting instead to have its residents rely on the federal system.

At the federal level, Republican congressmen failed in a recent effort to scuttle what is also known as Obamacare by cutting off funds.

Harvey said that is the wrong approach for opponents.

“If you don’t like the law, you are going to have to change it substantively. Simply cutting off funds would destabilize the (insurance) market,” Harvey said.

The debate continued over pros and cons of Medicaid expansion.

Lynch said the expansion would have resulted in 41-43 percent of Louisiana’s residents covered by Medicaid because of the state’s low income population. He contended it would require $1.7 billion over 10 years in state funds.

Medicaid provider networks are already strained because of patient volumes, Lynch said. The addition of 500,000 more people to Medicaid would put pressure on the state to increase provider reimbursements to entice them to stay or do the work — driving up the costs, he said.

Cerise said that the uninsured have poor health outcomes, resulting in early deaths and undetected or untreated diseases that lead to catastrophic health care costs for taxpayers.

Cerise said the independent Legislative Fiscal Office said the state would save $185 million or more over the 10 year period. He also disputed the projection of increased provider reimbursements that would be required.

Rolfsen works with the Volunteer Health Corps, which extends medical care for the uninsured by taking patients referred from hospital emergency rooms.

“We have to improve the ability of all our citizens to get health care,” Rolfsen said.

The uninsured going without care will have a stroke, a heart attack or kidney failure “then become eligible for care with our tax dollars,” he said.