The upcoming election will have long lasting effects on U.S. healthcare, and by extension, on our economy. What should matter the most to us is not what Republicans or Democrats think about the Affordable Care Act, but what doctors and nurses and other healthcare experts have to say.
As I discussed in an article for the Huffington Post last month, the ACA is supported by some of the largest medical organizations in the country, including not only the traditionally conservative American Medical Association, but also the national professional organizations that represent pediatricians, family practitioners, obstetricians and gynecologists, internists, psychiatrists and cardiologists. Every bit as compelling is the strong endorsement from the American Nurses Association. The message from the experts to whom we trust our health is clear: The ACA must go forward.
Support for the ACA is not limited to the professionals who stand at the bedside. Doctors for America, a nonprofit advocacy group, released a letter on Friday from more than 100 of the nations's healthcare leaders demanding the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. These included CEOs of major hospitals, heads of physician organizations, economists, and the deans of medical schools and schools of public health. These leaders were joined by over 10,000 doctors and patients who also signed the declaration.
These highly respected groups are convinced that the reforms we see in the ACA improve access to care, provide more cost effective services, and protect patients and employers from health industry profiteering. Because the law is finally tackling the root causes of inflated health costs, it represents our first serious effort at reigning in healthcare spending - something our economy desperately needs.
Who opposes the ACA? Republicans running for office. These politicians are inexplicably comfortable with knowing that their rhetoric flies in the face of all the opinions that matter. Who else opposes it? Special interest groups that make a whole lot of money from our old way of doing business, and who are dumping huge amounts of that money into Republican coffers.
And what would happen if the ACA was in fact repealed on "Day 1" as Governor Romney has promised?
We would go back to paying the high cost of uninsured people showing up in emergency rooms, for conditions that have grown complicated from neglect -- a huge, preventable drain on healthcare dollars.
Seniors will lose the prevention benefits that the ACA has provided -- things like annual physical exams, mammograms and colonoscopies. The program that has saved seniors millions of dollars on prescription drugs also disappears if the ACA is repealed.
Women will lose the benefit that provides contraception services with no out-of-pocket expenses. Young people will no longer be able to remain under their parents' coverage until age 26 -- more uninsured people pushing through those ER doors.
Consumers will no longer be entitled to the one billion dollars in rebates that the ACA required insurers to return last year because the companies spent too little on healthcare and were saving too much as profit.
We would lose the essential benefits package that requires any policy an insurance company sells you to include basic coverage for things like ER visits, prescriptions, and pediatric care.
Under the current law, it is difficult for insurance companies to hike premiums more than 10 percent per year. Repeal that regulation and many businesses will find employee health benefits unsustainable.
The only people who will benefit from an actual repeal of the ACA are those who could afford insurance but opt not to. We -- you and I -- will go back to picking up their tab.
Governor Romney claims that he would keep all these popular benefits when he repeals the ACA. But these benefits are the ACA. They are popular because they put patients' needs first.They are professionally endorsed because they are smart and cost effective. Romney could give no stronger support to the law itself than to say he can't do away with the actual contents of it.
Follow Maggie Kozel, M.D. on Twitter: www.twitter.com/barkingmd