By Clayton Crockett | LSU Student
Authorities in the Louisiana Hospital Association (LHA) traversed party lines with LSU professor Jim Richardson Thursday, weighing in on the future of healthcare in the United States and Louisiana and agreeing that at least parts of it are here to stay no matter who occupies the White House.
"The issue of healthcare has been longstanding in American history," said event moderator and assistant professor Jared Llorens, kicking off the panel discussion in LSU's Business Education Complex. It was one of a series of issue public conversations being held on campus during October as a run-up to the elections.
Llorens' comment set the tone of healthcare as a problem in dire need of a solution — though adequate answers remained illusive. The panel spent the most time discussing the intricacies of President Obama's Affordable Care Act and the prospects of further change should Republican Mitt Romney be elected in November.
"The ACA of 2010 from President Obama was very precise," said Richardson as he lifted a sheet from the four or five-inch-tall stack of papers before him, one segment of the act in question.
All involved are trying to expand coverage and reduce cost, Richardson continued. While Obama's plan did expand coverage, whether it lowered costs remains to be determined.
Executive Vice President of the LHA Sean Prados said the focus now needs to shift from volume to value, and statements from LHA President and CEO John Matessino mirrored the attention to payment options.
"Right now medicaid in Louisiana pays about 50 to 60 percent of what it costs to deliver the care to the hospitals," Matessino said. "Medicare pays around 90 percent, and commercial healthcare pays around 120 to 130 percent."
Commercial health insurance is therefore subsidizing those subscribers, he said. "It's important to understand how these things were actually paid for."
But rising costs is an unavoidable factor in healthcare, Richardson reasoned — along with complexity in regulation and administration. Costs have been increasing no matter who was in office, he noted.
"Technology is a big player [in costs]," said Prados. "Technology has come so far and is so advanced that it costs so much to use and develop."
He added that life expectancy, along with costs, also rises with technological advancements.
However much the panel lamented the rising costs of healthcare and the distribution of its payment, each panelist agreed the maximum coverage possible should be attained.
"If suddenly you started giving people coverage — people who don't have coverage yet — they have pent-up demand," said Matessino.
It is for this reason that repealing Obama's healthcare reform in its entirety will be unfeasible.
"There will be minor changes," said Richardson, but he added that all aspects regarding the expansion of coverage — such as the extension of parental healthcare coverage to the age of 26 — will stay.
The ACA is the foundation of any further healthcare reform in the U.S., Richardson said.
"That's why if I were Obama, I'd tell them to call it Obamacare: It's mine."
One question reigned in via Twitter brought the focus down to the voters: How will they be swayed to one end of the debate or the other?
That depends on whether you are on the giving or receiving end, said Matessino. "The person receiving the healthcare may not be the person or organization who has to pay for it, but someone has to pay for it. There is no such thing as free healthcare."