Today Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) released a damning op-ed piece in The Wall Street Journal in which he claims “Obamacare” might have killed his daughter Carey. In the column, Johnson claims that if Obamacare had put regulated insurance plans when his daughter received her heart surgery it might have prevented her from being covered. Sen. Johnson also claims that if health care reform will stifle the kind of innovation and research that helped save his daughter’s life.
Of course, the Obama administration would take a different view of the matter. Defenders of the Affordable Care Act argue it actually provides better patient protections for people like Sen. Johnson’s daughter. Among other things, the health care reform package outlaws recessions, a practice in which an insurance company could stop covering a patient like Carey once she got sick. The Affordable Care Act also will outlaw the practice of pre-existing condition exclusions, so that someone like Carey could still obtain insurance despite her “pre-existing condition.” The Affordable Care Act also provides for an expedited appeals process for patients like Carey, so that if she was denied coverage by her insurance company she could make her case more quickly. Finally, defenders of “Obamacare” point out that it provides a “floor of coverage” not a “ceiling” or limit on what can be covered by private plans.
However, what may be the most glaring omission in Johnson’s op-ed is the GOP’s proposed budget for 2011. The United States is by far the world leader in medical research, thanks in large part to some $30 billion which is spent by the federal government to help spur on medical innovation. Much of that $30 billion is given out to the private sector in the form of competitive grants. The New England Journal of Medicine recently documented just how important this funding is in bringing about new drugs, treatment techniques, and medical devices. In his fiscal year 2011 President Obama proposed increasing funding the NIH. The Republican budget passed in the House would cut NIH funding by approximately $1 billion. The Republican proposal has been called draconian by even some conservatives. Many worry that the cuts in funding will demoralize scientists and stifle medical innovation. Sen. Johnson is rightfully thankful that his daughter’s life was saved by medical advancements. The question now is whether the future “Careys” of the world will be sacrificed at the altar of Republican spending cuts.