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09-10-2012 | Article

Obamacare bests Romneycare at protecting consumers, study says

Abstract

Commonwealth Fund report

medwireNews: The 2012 presidential election is just around the corner, but the Commonwealth Fund has already declared a winner, at least when it comes to healthcare proposals.

In an analysis comparing President Obama's Affordable Care Act (ACA) with the healthcare proposal of former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, Sara Collins (Commonwealth Fund, New York City) and colleagues found that in every measure "implementation of the Affordable Care Act would likely outperform Romney's proposals."

The ACA is designed to provide universal health insurance coverage through a combination of private and public insurance, plus tax credits to make individual purchases of health insurance more affordable.

Governor Romney proposes to repeal the ACA, keep the existing private insurance market with some consumer protections, loosen regulations that he contends will allow for broader consumer choices, and fund Medicaid through block grants to states.

The report looks at the predicted effects of each candidate's proposals on:

  • The number of US residents who would gain health insurance coverage
  • Changes in insurance affordability
  • Changes in consumer protection and choice
  • Help for small businesses
  • Medicare solvency
  • Quality of care
  • Cost control

Collins and colleagues determined that the ACA will reduce the number of uninsured from a projected 60.0 million in 2022 if the ACA did not exist, to 27.1 million people. In contrast, Romney's proposals would, under the same scenario, increase the number of projected uninsured to 72 million in 2022. Most (10.3 million) of the increase would come from cuts in Medicaid eligibility under state block grants.

Regarding affordability, the authors found that tax credits under the ACA, scheduled to be in place by 2016, would increase, ranging from $ 3900 to $ 4500, compared with $ 1900 to $ 2600 if the ACA were repealed. Additionally, under Obama's plan, the tax credit would be available to an estimated 20 million people, compared with 10 million under Romney's free-market plan.

Both candidates have vowed that their plans will protect consumers. Starting in 2014, the ACA prohibits denial of coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, and bans charging of higher premiums based on gender or health status.

Repeal of the ACA, as promised by Romney, would remove these consumer protections. He has stated that he would prevent insurers from discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions if they maintain continuous insurance coverage, but his plan would not protect uninsured people with pre-existing conditions, or those who have an interruption in coverage for whatever reason.

By Neil Osterweil, medwireNews Reporter