The Drake's Take

Lies about health care reform are coming home to roost

April 9, 2013

Remember when, only three short years ago, Americans used the debate over the Affordable Care Act to launch the first serious look at our health care system in decades? People finally put aside their differences long enough to ensure we made the right changes, instead of just what helped their own political parties push their agendas.

No? That’s not the way you remember it? That’s because instead of using this unique opportunity to our nation’s advantage, we squandered it and instead allowed extremists to dictate the terms of the debate, snuffing out all hope that the end product would be something that would guarantee every single American would receive health care, regardless of his or her ability to pay.

Kerry Drake
Kerry Drake

In other words, what every other industrialized nation in the world, except ours, already does.

No, instead we were treated to absurd debates about death panels and claims that “Obamacare” would bankrupt us. The tactic succeeded in polarizing different interest groups, as the extreme right-wing was helped by Fox News to ooze outright lies that were picked up and bizarrely given credibility by other news organizations. It led to staged protests at congressional town hall meetings that gave the country an extremely warped view of what the proposed federal health care reform would actually do.

From my viewpoint, as a member of the press who isn’t ashamed to be identified as liberal, the success of leaders of the Tea Party, and much of the Republican Party, distorted the country’s view of the legislation so badly that it forced President Barack Obama’s administration to drop key elements of its plan.

Obama and the Democrats quickly abandoned all hope of ever passing universal health care, then caved in to demands to drop the public option for health insurance. By making concession after concession, Obama disappointed and angered his progressive base while the right unfairly portrayed him as some kind of communist. It was a crazy time in American politics, and the law the president squeaked through Congress and ultimately signed was justifiably criticized by people on the right and the left as a hodgepodge of federal regulations that failed to advance the goal of keeping people from having their life savings wiped out due to health care emergencies.

But now, as several of the law’s reforms have gone into effect and others approach their starting dates, it’s a good time to reassess how the Affordable Care Act has changed health care in the country, and specifically what it’s accomplished in Wyoming.

Judging by a March 20 op-ed piece by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius published in the Casper Star-Tribune, the law has resulted in some positive changes in the health care system that should be applauded — especially since they were so denigrated at the time of passage.

Sebelius makes a valid argument that Wyoming residents who have health insurance have more security now, thanks to new insurance market reforms and consumer protections.

She noted that:

  • More than 5,420 Wyoming Medicare beneficiaries with the highest prescription drug costs have saved an average of $685 on their medications. That’s a big savings for seniors on a fixed income.
  • Preventive services such as mammograms and flu shots are now available for free to 136,000 people in Wyoming with private insurance plans.
  • The Affordable Care Act is curbing increasing health costs by cracking down on waste and fraud, and establishing incentives for hospitals to use their monetary resources more wisely.
  • Wyoming residents are now protected from some of the worst insurance industry abuses, like lifetime coverage caps that could cut off benefits when people need them most.

“These reforms have already led to significant improvements in health outcomes,” stressed Sebelius. “That includes the first drop in hospital readmissions for Medicare beneficiaries on record, which means when people with Medicare go home from the hospital, they are more likely to stay healthy and less likely to have to return for additional care.”

The act has resulted in $1.1 million in rebates for Wyoming residents by limiting the amount that insurance companies can spend on marketing and overhead.

And the best is yet to come: Beginning in 2014, it will be illegal for insurance companies to discriminate against people with a pre-existing medical condition or disability. On Oct. 1, a new health insurance marketplace will give individuals, families and small business owners a better way to find private insurance plans that fit their respective budgets.

By covering more people in Wyoming, fewer residents will have to go to the emergency room to receive basic health care. This should keep the cost of premiums from increasing as rapidly and also reduce hospitals’ high cost of uncompensated care.

I’m still upset that we don’t have universal health care, but the improvements that have resulted from some of the various components of Obamacare should help make future discussions about such care more civil, as people realize they were duped by the misguided, sometimes shameful anger directed at health care reform. I hope that in the next phase of this long national and state debate, it will lead to the day when universal care finally becomes a reality.

— Veteran Wyoming journalist Kerry Drake is the editor-in-chief of The Casper Citizen, a nonprofit, online community newspaper. It can be viewed at

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Kerry Drake

Veteran Wyoming journalist Kerry Drake has covered Wyoming for more than four decades, previously as a reporter and editor for the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle and Casper Star-Tribune. He lives in Cheyenne and...

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  1. Dear Kevin Craig,
    Long before Obamacare, there were “death panels” deeply entrenched in the corporate bureaucracies of the health insurance companies. Their job was simple: find any and all means to deny coverage, so as to preserve profits, pay for the bloated death panels and pay for the ginormous salaries and bonuses of CEOs. Now those death panels are out of business, so what’s a poor, beleagured health insurance CEO to do? Jack up the premiums.

  2. The column is basically right and sensible. However, I’m dismayed, as with most comment sections on political subjects, by the tone and partisanship of comments. We’ve gotten to the point in our country where far too many people care nothing for civility and less for trying to get to what’s right and true, though a great deal for making debating points on their “side”.

    No wonder Washington doesn’t work when what passes for political discourse in our country has become so dominated by heat, unconcerned for light.

  3. If you really want to know the facts about how the ACA is and will affect Wyoming and you individually, I urge you all to check out the website of Consumer Advocates Project Healthcare @ There are thousands of Wyomingites without healthcare access today. The ACA is changing that, thank goodness. Medicaid expansion is paid for by our federal tax dollars and NOT A SINGLE WYOMINGITE IS RECEIVING IT, though we are paying for it for others because of the shortsightedness and ideology of Wyoming’s decisionmakers. CAPH’s members include:
    American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network
    American Heart Association
    Coalition of Wyoming Insurance Solutions for Health (C-Wish)
    Equality State Policy Center
    League of Women Voters
    Wyoming Primary Care Association
    The American College of Physicians, Wyoming Chapter
    March of Dimes

  4. First of all, there is an inherent conflict for any profit-seeking business in charge of anyone’s health care, simply because there are too many ways to lose money and not that many to make a profit. Hence the tradition of health insurance companies to take your money when you’re healthy, then screw you or drop you when you get sick. Obama doesn’t allow that safety valve for the for-profits anymore, so what will they do? Jack up premiums until no one can afford anything and even hard-core Republicans get tired of getting the shaft.
    That’s when we’ll have single-payer via Medicare, which will produce at least a 30 percent drop in costs, because we won’t be paying exhorbitant bonuses for CEOs anymore.

  5. I see the quote in Mr. Paoli’s comment about how Americans would go nuts over a 3 hour wait in an ER. Actually, the 11 hours is fairly common in this country and the 3-4 hours is not uncommon in some places in Wyoming, such as yesterday here in Cheyenne.

  6. Amazing.

    I presume you have read the 13,000 pages of regulations, Kerry, estimated at 7% of total regs when the beast is fully unleashed, that govern the 2700 page bill? Yet you profess to know what is in the law? I doubt, sir you have even read the bill. That might be a good first step. For you and gwarnock, no need to get down in the weeds–here are some macro facts–sources GAO, CBO, IRS, not Fox news.
    –675 billion in new taxes currently. 21 levies, 13 of which–about 480 Billion– take money directly (though some by cleverly disguised indirect means) from the middle class.
    –715 billion cut to medicare. medicare advantage phased out by 2016.
    original projected cost of “affordable” care act promised at 900 billion, plus 165 billion start up per Obama, Reid and pelosi themselves (just so happens to equate to the sum of the two numbers above, gentlemen) now estimated at slightly over 2.6 Trillion, including ALL costs–the CBO 1.6 Trillion figure–still almost double original promises– is replete with caveats and exclusions–read it. (wonder where that extra money is going to come from…hmmmmm?) Gwarnock, rather than reading the “headlines” of the most recent CBO report–go back and read all four of their contradictory edicts since March11 2012–particularly their disclaimers on their figures (does not include all costs–presumes common sense legislation to fix problems, does not count waivers, and etc. etc)
    –30 million folks, not counting 11 million estimated illegal aliens, will remain uncovered
    –just under 500 billion in waivers granted to white house cronies–including unions who pushed hard for the bill
    –white house, senate, congress exempt from it’s coverages or costs (telling).
    –IPAB will indeed exist to limit services by deciding on a one size fits all national level, who gets what services (Cass sunstein, an Obama czar, calls it eugenics in his book. read it.)
    –premiums have doubled on average since 2009–average now 14.7k, and to rise to 20,000 per year for family of four by 2020–see IRS. Promises were premiums would go down by 2500. google up the videos–no pundits, their words, their promises.
    –current system has a 68k doc shortage, projected to increase to 110k docs by 2025, and that is BEFORE another 30 million folks dumped on the system. Per haps it has not occurred to you, but an insurance card does not provide medical care, doctors do.
    –google up the never ending videos–their words–you can keep your doc, you can keep your coverage, etc etc. Not so much. IRS estimates 7 million folks losing both in next four years. Private think tanks double that number.

    The shame of it is, the health care system could have been greatly strengthened in 200 pages of common sense–revise malpractice/liability (google up tx and ms), insurance across state lines, instead of IPAB, a professional anti fraud board–docs, medicare/Medicaid pros, forensic accountants,legal beagles–to weed out, stop and prosecute the 200 billion/year conservative estimate of waste in those programs, and finally –instead of 80 billion crony deal to big pharmaceuticals (no generic drugs allowed for the good folks of the United States) generic should have been promoted and encouraged. Estimated net savings from above depending on economist? 400-600 billion per year. Use of that money? pre-existing conditions high risk pool, extended coverage for young adults under parental policy, and insurance for the uninsured. Imagine that–all the goodies, without the cost or disruption–except for the bat down of big drug companies, unions, and the trial lawyers association. NOT ONE of these provisions are in the bill. But that would have most likely lowered campaign contribution receipts. Such an imperfect world.

    Finally, when you are done with that research, and can speak coherently on the matter without rigid–and incorrect –ideological rant, google up cloward and piven, 1966 publication (might also come up under “orchestration of crisis”). The problem with Obama care is that it is not about health. It is designed to promote an agenda that is far larger, exponentially more sinister, and has absolutely nothing to do with quality, or cost of health care, or covering the uninsured.

  7. Oh ya, a Pridgen, the wealthy are so miserable from the abuse
    In just the last generation, the richest 1% almost quadrupled their incomes.
    The average wealth of the 1% is 225 times bigger than the wealth of the typical household – the highest it’s ever been.
    Three decades ago, CEOs made about 40 times as much as an average worker – now CEOs make almost 200 times as much as regular employees.
    Last year, half of Americans earned less than $26,000 while CEOs at top 500 companies raked in an average of $11 million.
    Over the past decade, earnings for middle-class Americans actually fell. In fact, working Americans’ wages are now a lower percentage of our economy than they’ve ever been.
    The divide between the richest and the poorest is worse in America than it is in nearly all of Europe and Asia and much of Africa. It’s about as bad as in Rwanda and Serbia – and it’s bad for our economy.
    The 1% is not an accident – it is the result of policies our government chose to pursue. And that means ALL of them D & R.
    Thanks Scott, and so true, Never Give Up!!

  8. Funniest line in Drakes delusional tale, ‘And the best is yet to come: Beginning in 2014’. What a hoot.

  9. Mark, don’t waste your breath. They NEVER do the research; just deny. Liberalism is a disease and their only solution to EVERYTHING is to tax the rich. That fixes all social and fiscal problems! 🙂

  10. gwarnock…love it “Never met a TV camera I didn’t like” …John Barrasso……so TRUE! News Flash for you educated anti Obama anything, filibustering, don’t tread on me, self righteous righties….health care reform and mandates were Republican conservative ideas. Back in the days when I was proud to be a Republican. Today…..not so much.

  11. I do not even know Marc. What is happening in England as well as other similar countries is just a preview of what will happen here if we do not STOP this madness. If you could think for yourself instead of being brain washed by MSNBC and the mainstream media outlets, may be you would know what is actually going on in the country!

  12. Are you Marc’s babysitter?
    That is England, not the U.S., if you have evidence of this happening here, let’s see it.
    Did you know that (Red) states are the “Takers”, Wyoming is second only to Alaska in Fed beanies, who is taking from who?
    I Know it hurts, but try research and accepting the fact that you lie, get off Fokkk News would be a good start!

  13. Gwarnock
    Here are several links to backup Marc:

    As for the “death panels”, how in the world do you think they are going to ration the limited amount of funds that will be available for medical treatment? I know you liberals just want to keep taking from the hard working people in this country.
    You liberals need to wake up!!!! If you like socialism so much, why don’t you move (and take Mr. Drake with you) instead of ruining this country?

  14. Paoli spreading European facts without links, sounds like our John “I Never Met a TV Camera I Didn’t Like” Barrasso and Mike “I Got Mine” Enzi, just lie like I like it!
    And the Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck talking points adds no credibility to the nonsense it spews.
    The Grand Obstructionists Party has blocked any and everything the President has tried to advance, even their Own Ideas!! Wake the eff up!!!
    The CBO said this about the health care law back in 2010: It lowers the deficit, by about $124 billion over 10 years.
    And in 2011, when Republicans offered a bill to repeal the health care law, the CBO said that increased the deficit, by about $210 billion over 10 years. (< see, a link)
    And My Lord, Sarah Palin “Death Panels”?? Seriously?? Ayn Rand?? Seriously??
    If you don’t like Obamacare, fine, just say but, QUIT LYING ABOUT IT!!!
    Thank You Mr. Drake, as usual, well done!

  15. Mr. Drake
    Unfortunately, facts had nothing to do with the push or the idea of the monstrosity of a law.
    I am interested to know what Lori does as a healthcare pro?
    Most legitimate doctors I know have been dropping Medicare left and right prior to HCR due to it the reimbursements being too low and too late.
    The non legitimate docs just double and triple bill Medicare and because the Federal gov has no accountability …they usually get.
    Newsflash that came across the wire a couple weeks back…those countries that have systems like the one Mr. Drake mentioned (ie. Great Britain) , had to produce stats letting us know that almost 5000 people starved to death in their Universal system hospitals last year alone!
    Another stat…3 years ago…English Parliament passed a law that patients must be seen within 11 hours of coming into the ER. (imagine that happening in an American hospital??? 3 or 4 hours…our citizens would go nuts)
    English hospital solutions??? Set up triage in ER parking lots , when crowding gets to be issue. (Is this medical care??)
    Unfortunately, the government forced the last mortgage crisis and the design behind this plan has always been to force the next crisis in Healthcare.
    You elected this guy 😉
    Now you liberals claim that our kids don’t actually belong to parents…but to the community!!!
    You all should get to spend some time in China…and can stay there.

  16. Mr. Drake I believe you are the now the one spreading the lies. First of all, there will be “death panels” because there will be a limited amount of funds and the panel will have to decide who gets what treatment. Also, you mention other countries having universal healthcare. What you do not mention is that people in those countries usually have to wait twice as long to get an operation. And, in some cases people die waiting for their treatment. The liberal philosophy which is socialism, will not work in this Country. Universal healthcare cannot be sustained. We already have insurance premiums continuing to go up, doctors who are going to stop taking Medicare patients, people losing their jobs or having their hours cut to part-time, all due to Obamacare (ACA).

    Obamacare will bankrupt the country. The CBO has already raised the cost of Obamacare form around $850 million to around $1.6 trillion. A great lady once said, “The trouble with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money”

  17. Well stated. As a health care professional, I have been appalled by the distortion and divisiveness used by politicians when discussing the Affordable Care Act. This is the first step forward in providing a true, organized health care system in the US since Medicare. It bring great direct benefits to tens of millions of Americans and will help to control the cost of health insurance and the outrageous profits made by the insurance industry. Ultimately it will improve the health care for all Americans.

    Wyoming is a notoriously conservative state but this is one element of the “liberal agenda” that is good for all Wyomingites.