When you want a political issue debated properly, who better to call in than celebrity dietitians? Suzanne Somers, author of Sexy Forever: How to Fight Fat after Forty, and Bombshell: Explosive Medical Secrets That Will Redefine Aging has weighed in on the Obamacare debate with an op ed in the Wall St Journal blasting the President's signature achievement, calling the Affordable Care Act "a socialist Ponzi scheme".
Her evidence? Somers husband's sister had to wait two months to get health care for an unknown illness in Canada, and her husbands Canadian cousins are doctors and they have moved to America because they can make more money from privatized healthcare.
If only Somers had brought this up when the bill was up for debate in 2009!
Her article, titled "The Affordable Care Act Is a Socialist Ponzi Scheme" has been ripped apart by pretty much everyone who a) knows anything about the Affordable Healthcare Act, and b) can read.
Here's Somers on her Canadian in-laws:
My sister-in-law had to wait two months to get a General Practitioner. During this period she spent her days in bed vomiting continuously, unable to get any food or drink down because she couldn’t get an appointment with the doctor. When she finally did, the doctor said, “Oh you don’t need me, you need a specialist.” That took another two weeks until she got a pill that corrected the problem.
Really, is this what we want?
While anecdotes are perfectly acceptable when crafting an argument, actual statistics on waiting times and access to care would have bolstered her argument if she wanted to be taken seriously. Somers is right that waiting times in Canada are longer than average, but she doesn't take into account the fact that 1. 30 percent of health spending in Canada comes from private sources - around 2/3s of Canadians buy private health insurance (Perhaps if Somers' sister-in-law was as fabulously wealthy as she was, a private doctor could have sorted it out on the spot), 2. The country has better overall healthcare outcomes, and 3. it is cheaper than US health care by a considerable margin.
Here's Somers on the cost of Obamacare:
So far, all you are hearing on the news is how everyone’s premiums are doubling and tripling and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to recognize that the whole thing is a big mess. Plus, even after Obamacare is fully implemented, there still will be tens of millions of people not covered. So what’s the point? Medical care will be degraded, the costs will skyrocket, and most frightening of all, your most intimate and personal information is now up for grabs.
Yes, we've heard how everyone's premiums are doubling and tripling, but that doesn't mean it's true. Obamacare will mean costs go up for some people and down for others. The biggest (legitimate) hike is predicted in Indiana (an average of 72%), but that only accounts for the actual cost of healthcare, not the premiums themselves. As a report in CNN states:
All of these rate hikes must still be reviewed by the federal government and do not take into account the fact that Americans with incomes up to $45,960 for an individual and $94,200 for a family of four will be eligible for federal subsidies.
What does this actually mean? While costs might go up in some instances, the federal government will step in to mitigate the burden. New regulations also ensure that out of pocket costs are capped, and insurance companies will have to compete in state run markets where plans can be evaluated side by side (so costs are likely to go down over time, as lower than projected premiums are already showing). As for Somers dark warning that "your most intimate and personal information is now up for grabs", it's total and utter horse shit. There's a hub, that as Politifacts describes, "pulls limited data from other agencies to verify eligibility and determine how much an individual will actually pay for an insurance plan on the exchanges" (the same system that allows Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program to query the government databases used today in the eligibility processes for lots of state and federal programs). So no, the government doesn't have access to anyone's personal information.
Then, Somers moves on to retirees:
Is affordable care a good thing for retirees? Perhaps over time, it might work if you don’t get too old and you don’t get too sick, and you don’t live too long. But frankly, the economic ramifications with our already swollen debt load don’t add up. Retirees who are on Medicare will suffer the consequences of 700 billions of Medicare dollars instead being used to cover the skyrocketing cost of Obamacare. In essence, less dollars for seniors, means less service. Not fair. The Boomers are going to take the “hit.” In Obamacare, “too old” has limitations of service.
This is flat out nonsense. The Affordable Care Act specifically protects seniors and drives down costs. In a detailed report at the Center For American Progress, they found that "The Affordable Care Act clearly is good for Medicare and its beneficiaries. The law ensures higher-quality, lower-cost care for all enrollees and extends the life of the program, while shifting payment methods and altering various provisions of the program to reduce both our federal deficit and the extent that special interests play a role in funding Medicare."
And if Somers is so concerned about socialized medical care, why does she care about money being taken away from a genuinely socialistic program, Medicare?
Apparently an economist as well as a health care expert, Somers claims that "the economic ramifications with our already swollen debt load don’t add up", without offering any statistics/evidence whatsoever. The truth is, Obamacare is projected to save money in the long term - a projected $190 billion over 10 years from lower than expected premiums, and potentially far, far more as more people are absorbed into insurance programs and tax payers won't have to fork out for the uninsured.
"Boomers are smart. They see the train wreck coming" writes Somers. "Most I speak with think the Affordable Care Act is a greater Ponzi scheme than that pulled off by Bernie Madoff."
Bernie Madoff took billions of dollars of other people's money and spent it on himself. Obamacare forces insurance companies to cover more people, lowers costs for millions of vulnerable Americans, and stops people going bankrupt from medical bills.
The parallels are obvious.