Murphy slams Affordable Health Care Act

Published Jan 24, 2014 at 12:01 am (Updated Jan 23, 2014 at 3:11 pm)

When U.S. Congressman Tim Murphy, R-Upper St. Clair, spoke to the joint luncheon of the South West Communties and Peters Township chambers of commerce Jan. 21 on the topic of the Affordable Health Care Act, he put a sarcastic emphasis on the word “affordable.”

Instead of the Affordable Health Care Act, Murphy said the promise of improved health care insurance should be called “The Big Lie.”

Addressing a room full of chamber members, many of whom are in the insurance business, Murphy, a Republican speaking on an act crafted by Democrats, said one of the most blatant lies that Americans were told was that if they liked their individual health care plan, they could keep it. And, he said, Americans were told if they liked their physician, they could keep their physician. The problems are compounded in Pittsburgh with the head-to-head battle between Highmark and UPMC, according to the congressman.

There is only one way premiums will trend in the future and that, Murphy said, is up and up and up, some as much as 30 to 400 percent. Another upward trend is the amount of deductibles climbing upward to $6,500.

The data hub is not secure, Murphy said, adding information has not yet been breached, but there have been attempts to obtain personally identifiable information.

He also said that those hired to act as navigators – to help those seeking health care find the most appropriate and affordable insurance – can have no ties to the insurance industry. That means an applicant who has years of experience in the insurance business will not be hired as he or she has taken money from the insurance industry. However, as the act is written, someone with a criminal record, including time in jail, and absolutely no experience, can be hired.

Murphy did not merely disparage the current act, but offered ways he and others in Congress are attempting to alleviate the burden on the public. One way, he said, are two bills he is working on that would allow individuals to form groups to obtain better policies.

Another problem with the current legislation is that an estimated 800,000 people are expected to sign up for Medicaid or Medicare. However, Murphy said, the government has no idea of how many were previously enrolled in the programs.

He advised the chamber members to watch for two significant changes, which he called waves, that will occur July 1 and Sept. 2, mostly affecting rates. And it’s also at those times when small business owners who are required to provide some type of insurance for their employees working more than 29 hours a week, must provide insurance or face a fine from the government. Murphy said he is hearing rumblings that some small business owners are saying they will take a chance and not provide insurance coverage. Others are scheduling part-time employees to less than 29 hours.

Even Murphy said he is confused when it comes to his own health care insurance. He told the chamber members he filled out forms, then received a letter informing him the forms were not filled out correctly, then more forms and more letters until finally he received his insurance card in the mail. But then, he received another letter informing him he had not filled out the forms correctly.

Holding a Ph.D. in psychology, Murphy said he is concerned about how the new act will affect those diagnosed with a mental health issue. About 20 percent of patients in a year will have some mental health issues, ranging from depression to a major mental illness.

A patient on Medicaid may often see more than one physician in one day. However, Murphy said, there is a regulation in Medicaid that a patient may not have more than one doctor’s visit in one day. The lack of inpatient beds for those with mental health issues is also declining, from 600,000 in the 1950s to about 40,000 currently.

To help alleviate the one doctor per day rule, Murphy said he would like to see integrated care, which he also feels would be a cost savings. In integrated care, a group of doctors would sit down with the patient and/or the patient’s family and discuss progress or the course of treatment.

An abundance of government is also a problem, the congressman said. He doesn’t have much faith in a health care plan when the government “can’t even run a website.”

In its current form, the Affordable Health Care Act is 2,700 pages, with references on a majority of paragraphs to other information that can run the explanation to thousands and thousands of pages.

For additional information, Murphy suggested visiting Murphy.house.gov, or Facebook.com/RepTimMurphy or on Twitter @RepTimMurphy, or by calling his Mt. Lebanon office at 412-344-5583.

And, if anyone has had a positive experience signing up for new health care, he said he’d like to hear about that as well.

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