WASHINGTON (CBS DC) — Author Steven Brill says that health care is now far more accessible for Americans under the Affordable Care Act, but that Washington lobbyists have actually made the system more expensive for consumers while boosting medical and pharmaceutical company profits.
Coverage and costs are expanding as the government reports that more than 6.5 million Americans have signed up for 2015 medical coverage through the Affordable Care Act website ahead of the February 15 deadline, “CBS This Morning” reports. The deductible for “bronze level” coverage rose $100 from last year and private insurance premiums rose 3 percent since 2014, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Brill’s new book, “America’s Bitter Pill,” discusses the “money, politics, backroom deals, and the fight to fix our broken healthcare system” as he has investigated Obamacare for years.
“It’s certainly more accessible to tens of millions of Americans and it’s more affordable to them because they’re getting their insurance premiums paid for in large part by the government,” said Brill. “So it’s certainly not more affordable for the taxpayers.”
“We’ve basically created a system where the good news is that many more people get the kind of health care you and I get, the bad news is that the taxpayers are paying for it and they’re paying the same exorbitant prices that make the system so unworkable.”
But Brill says that Obamacare did not do anything to bring down the cost of health care – an issue he blames squarely on congressional lobbyists.
“There have been little things, but at every turn, when they tried to do something substantive to bring the costs down – such as control the price of drugs, deal with the exorbitant non-profit hospitals’ high profits – they were stopped by the lobbyists.”
The Center for Responsive Politics reports that pharmaceutical and health care lobbying groups spent $177 million in 2014. There were 1,360 lobbyists reported and 327 clients that have been disclosed.
“The best test of all this is the only way that a bill this big will pass in Washington is if the powers-that-be decide that it should pass,” said Brill. “The drug companies are making more money, the hospitals are making more money, the medical device makers are making more money and everybody’s happy – except the taxpayer.”
“There’s nothing in the legislation that brings down the cost of health care,” said Brill.
He explained that the only way for the American health care system to get better is if taxpayers and consumers “rise up” to stop lobbyists from running Congress and the system as a whole. He said that health care is the country’s “largest and most screwed up industry” and that his book shows why the system can’t be run from Washington.
Brill said that many Americans hold a “naïve assumption” that health care can be operated as a marketplace when in reality sick people are not savvy consumers and have “no idea” what they’re spending money on to get better.
Brill, who was undergoing heart surgery as he finished the book, said what he learned is that he didn’t care how much the costs were and that anyone “would beg, borrow and steal” to get themselves or loved ones healthy.
Brill said in the midst of the process he interviewed the CEO of United Healthcare who told him he “couldn’t explain” the explanation of benefits received by Brill from the insurance company.
A Gallup poll conducted through September 2014 found that the number of uninsured Americans fell from 17.3 percent in 2013 to 13.4 percent in 2014.