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Dave Sather Money Matters: Sprinting toward a two-class society

Dec. 17, 2013 at 6:17 a.m.


BY DAVE SATHER

They're the words no one wants to hear: "You've got cancer."

Yet this is the message my mother has received twice.

She is obviously not alone. I don't know anyone whose family has not been affected by the dreaded disease.

Thankfully, we live in a nation of great innovation and technology. Our health care facilities are routinely sought out by world leaders.

For my mother, she had a bit of luck on her side, too. Her parents lived in Rochester, Minn. - home of the world-famed Mayo Clinic. With the help of the fantastic intellect and resources at Mayo, my mother is still going strong 17 years later.

For anyone facing cancer or any life-threatening illness, we all want the best.

Recognizing this, the mandatory sign-up date for people under the Affordable Care Act, aka "Obamacare," is Monday. For many people, this will be a rude awakening.

We were told repeatedly that all Americans would be able to keep existing health insurance plans if so desired. This has turned out to be a fabrication. The endless disasters and incompetency associated with the "Obamacare" website have been well documented.

Now, people enrolling for individual policies are about to be hit with another disappointment. Should you enroll in the new mandatory health care as prescribed under "Obamacare," it is quite likely you will not have access to the world's best health care. Instead, it will offer insurance that is deemed to be "low cost." I may shop for many things on a low-cost basis, but health care is not one of them.

MD Anderson Cancer Center is widely recognized as one of the top cancer hospitals in the world. Sadly, the world-class facilities in Houston will be off-limits to most holders of "Obamacare" insurance. Watchdog.org recently assessed the top 18 hospitals in the country, as rated by U.S. News & World Report, to determine availability under "Obamacare" health insurance. Most of these hospitals are opting out of coverage under the Affordable Health Act.

The Financial Times also reported that, in an effort to keep costs down, the majority of plans on the new health care exchanges will not offer patient access to MD Anderson or other top cancer centers like Memorial Sloan Kettering or The Cleveland Clinic.

This is truly unfortunate, as "Obamacare" equates quality health care to a sack of flour - just another commodity. Health care is not a "one-size-fits-all" commodity, and you cannot simply shop for the low-cost provider.

This nightmare of coverage makes me ponder a few things. First, do any Americans think the elected leaders who forced this mangled legislation down our throats will be denied access to the finest health care facilities? I certainly doubt it. It continues to be a sad indictment upon our elected leaders when they conveniently act with the "do as I say, not as I do" philosophy.

Furthermore, no one should be of the illusion that wealthy Americans are going to go without health care. They will pay for the care and services they want and need - even if they have to pay cash. We are already seeing evidence that this is leading to "concierge medicine," in which doctors bypass the red tape associated with insurance and the government and offer their services to cash payers.

For the rest of us, the Affordable Care Act has taken away our existing policies and replaced them with plans that have high dollar premiums or deductibles in the $10,000 to $12,000 range. The costs are so large that many of the Americans who should have been helped by "Obamacare" stand to suffer even more.

As President Obama gets on the television to rant about income disparity and the wealth gap, he needs to realize that the implementation of his signature health care bill has ensured mediocre health care for middle income and poor Americans. The people he claims to want to help will be negatively affected by these decisions, ultimately resulting in a sprint toward a two-class society.

Dave Sather is a Victoria Certified Financial Planner and owner of Sather Financial Group. His column, Money Matters, publishes every other week.

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