Congressman Roger Marshall, a Great Bend doctor, penned an editorial for the Washington Times on March 5. It appeared in print a day before House Republicans unveiled two bills to repeal the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
“As we in Congress work to deliver true 21st-century healthcare to the American people, I wanted to address the issue of coverage for folks with pre-existing conditions…which ensures that all Americans have access to high-quality, affordable healthcare,” Marshall’s column reads. “Many of us in Congress, and our President, have agreed we must ensure this coverage, and have accepted it as our challenge.”
Value Pools Versus High-Risk Pools
Marshall’s column focuses on the concept of value pools rather than high-risk pools.
“What are value pools?” Marshall asks. “Value pools are insurance programs set up to focus specifically on patients with pre-existing conditions.”
Eric Pahls, Marshall’s communication director, said a lot of the debate about pre-existing conditions and coverage sounds frightening to some people. He said the value pool proposal should ease some of those fears.
“The high-risk pools sound pretty ominous,” Pahls said. “We want to assure people this isn’t a scary thing. It’s necessary if we’re going to keep insurance access affordable for everybody and make a system that is sustainable within the insurance industry.”
Marshall doesn’t serve on the committees that will have a first crack at the legislation. However, Marshall is a doctor and belongs to the GOP Doctor’s Caucus, a group of 16 doctors in Congress. Pahls said the group has been pretty involved in the process.
“They’re just big enough within the conference to have veto power, if they move united,” Pahls said.
Marshall writes the value pools would cover people with one of 33 diagnoses, similar to a program in Alaska.
“By putting folks with pre-existing conditions into a seperate like-risk insurance group… they will be more likely to get the type of benefits and care they need,” Marshall says.
Marshall envisions a policy that allows those in value pools to use a concierge physician. Or, he writes, a health care professional “dedicated to directing them through the confusing maze of health care.”
“This concierge can bring each patient true value,” Marshall writes.
Marshall Draws Fire
The Big First Congressman drew fire recently after Stat News published comments he made during an interview with the publication.
“Just like Jesus said, ‘The poor will always be with us.’ There is a group of people that just don’t want health care and aren’t going to take care of themselves,” Marshall told the Stat reporter.
He said spiritually, socially, and morally some people just don’t want health care.
“The Medicaid population, which is on a free credit card, as a group, do probably the least preventative medicine and taking care of themselves and eating healthy and exercising,” he said. “And I’m not judging, I’m just saying socially, that’s where they are. So there’s a group of people that even with unlimited access to health care are only going to use the emergency room when their arm is chopped off or when their pneumonia is so bad they get brought into the ER.”
Pahls said the quote isn’t entirely in context, but it definitely could have been worded better.
“When you do dozens of interviews a week on health care, you are bound to say something that is not entirely correct,” Pahls said. “Anyone who has studied Marshall’s record–anyone who has actually observed him–knows where heart is. That’s why the Left is using that as an opportunity to slam him, but most people, especially Kansans, see right through that.”
Real World Experience
Pahls said few members of Congress have done more to ensure the accessibility of health care for all people.
“The real phenomenon taking place over the last couple of years is now there are bureaucrats and commentators who think they know more about hands on, real world healthcare than people with real experience. It’s troubling,” Pahls said. “Marshall has seen first hand the failures of the current health care legislation and health insurance market.”
Marshall has been an obstetrician for 25 years and helped grow and administer services at Great Bend Hospital.
Changes to America’s healthcare system won’t be easy, Marshall writes.
“It’s not complicated. In fact, it is simple. But it’s not easy,” he said.