By Ken Borsuk
Greenwich Time (Old Greenwich, Conn.), Aug. 19, 2015
While the battle over the Affordable Care Act might be finished in the courts, it still faces challenges, according to health-policy expert John Hughes.
Hughes, a professor of medicine at Yale University School of Medicine and director of medical care for the West Haven VA Medical Center, was the featured speaker at the Retired Men’s Association of Greenwich on Wednesday. He discussed the history and future of Obamacare, which was enacted in 2010 despite the opposition of congressional Republicans.
Hughes said the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding the Affordable Care Act’s federal subsidies was the second time the country’s highest court has upheld the law.
“It is unlikely there will be any other legal challenges,” Hughes said. “Most people agree there’s no future in that, given the Supreme Court decisions. Any assaults on the Affordable Care Act are going to have to come from Congress and any changes are going to have to come from Congress.”
The Republican-led House of Representatives has unsuccessfully tried more than 40 times to defund Obamacare. Even though Republicans now control the Senate, PresidentBarack Obama would still be able to veto a legislative attempt to end his signature legislation, Hughes said.
“What happens in the next election will very much determine the future of the Affordable Care Act,” Hughes said. “It’s an interesting time to be alive.”
Hughes, during the question-and-answer period after his address, discussed the merits of a single-payer system similar to Canada’s. He said that despite some complaints from Canadians, they approve of the system and are angry over seeing ts misrepresented in the American media as forcing people to wait for medical care.
He said American doctors remain divided over the idea of a single-payer system in America.
“Doctors generally respond well to the idea of a single-payer system until you start talking about how exactly it will work,” Hughes said. “Then all of a sudden it’s not so popular. … Many would not be happy with having a single payer, but some of my colleagues in private practice at this point say the current system is nuts. We’re having to dance with these gorillas, these insurance organizations and these large consolidated hospital organizations. Maybe we should just dance with a single gorilla.”
Hughes said America is spending too much on health care, an issue which led to the topic of needing health care reform in the first place.
“Even though we are a wealthy country and we would expect to spend more on health care, we spend disproportionately more than any other country,” Hughes said. “It’s not just that we’re spending more money. We have been devoting a larger and larger proportion of our economy to health care. … This is a well-recognized phenomenon, and economists, no matter what stripe, agree that we are spending unsustainable amounts of money on health care.”
A full video of Hughes’ remarks will be posted online at www.greenwichrma.com.