Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum's personal story and opposition to health care reform is gut-wrenching. His young daughter, Isabella, is seriously ill with the genetic disorder Trisomy 18. Half of all children with the chromosomal anomaly, more common in girls, are stillborn. And of those who do survive, only one in 10 makes it to her first birthday. She is now 3 1/2 years old.
Santorum cites the health care reform law, the PPACA, as the reason for his presidential bid even though it takes him away from his family and Isabella so often.
"I have a little girl who's 3½ years old," the Republican presidential hopeful said in his dinner speech at the annual Defenders of Freedom event in late November, hosted by Representative Steve King of Iowa. "I don’t know whether her life is going to be measured, it's always been measured, in days and weeks," reported the Washington Post.
Santorum, the former Pennsylvania Senator, doesn't often speak of Isabella, but when he does, it is often in conjunction with his top policy goal of dismantling the health-care reform legislation. He sees the PPACA as a threat to those like her, "on the margins of life," as he states it.
Santorum says other countries who have moved toward socialized medicine give poor care to those in the most need of it. He sees ObamaCare as a large step toward a single-payer, socialized system. He says those systems in place in England and Canada do not treat chronically ill patients effectively.
Without going in depth on data from England, France, and other single payer nations, let's assume he's right on that point without debating it, at least for the sake of this exercise.
But is ObamaCare (the PPACA) a large step toward Canada-style health care -- a single-payer system? Santorum's critics argue that the health care reform he argues so vehemently against is diamtrically opposite of a single-payer solution and will actually aide those with disabilities. They say the PPACA is not single-payer but is a market-driven solution relying on insurers and not the government in providing care.
Santorum in that speech said, "We see with every socialized-medicine country, which is absolutely where we’re headed, those on the margins of life are treated differently," he said. “They’re not given the care, the resources aren’t allocated because it is very costly, and my little girl would probably be seen as, I hear not only from anecdotal but actual evidence from other countries, that children like this simply do not get care."
But the PPACA, proponents of the law say, achieves its goals almost entirely by increasing access to private insurance and private providers. The law’s supporters say children like Santorum's daughter will be better off because insurance companies will no longer be able to impose annual or lifetime limits on coverage. Even critics of the law generally applaud its provision barring insurers from denying coverage because of pre-existing conditions or disability.
On behalf of the American Association of People with Disabilities Board, its Chair Tony Coelho, in a letter to the editor of the Des Moines Register responded writing the "Disabled are helped by health reform." "We find the comments of Sen. Rick Santorum in his recent visit to Iowa regrettable and misleading, wrote Coelho. "Misstatements regarding the Affordable Care Act (ACA) negatively impact the lives of Americans with disabilities and create a culture of misinformation regarding health care in America and its availability to those in the disability community" Coelho added.
Coelho continued saying that the AADA firmly believes that the ACA advances health care coverage broadly for those with all types of disabilities. Most important, he wrote, "the ACA eliminates the use of pre-existing conditions to deny insurance to people with disabilities, like Senator Santorum's daughter Isabella."
Reform's Santroum Supports
Santorum wants to repeal the ACA as he says it is particularly "cruel...(with) multiple incentives for employers to discontinue offering health care coverage to their employees – leaving patients uninsured and required to purchase health insurance the government chooses or pay stiff penalties." Instead Santorum, as well as Romney, Gingrich, and others wants to replace it with the following provisions, and are taken directly from Santorum's campaign website:
- Strengthen patient-driven health coverage options such as Health Savings Accounts coupled with high deductible insurance plans (and repeal ObamaCare policies that gut such options)
- Reduce costs through competition, increased transparency, electronic records, and health care literacy – empowering patients and their doctors with information and options
- Allow patients to purchase health insurance across state lines to gain access to the best insurance coverage to fit their individual needs – patients shouldn’t be required to pay for (and subsidize for others) coverage for services they don’t want or need
- Allow those who purchase their own health care coverage to do so with pre-tax dollars, including a refundable tax-credit for the purchase of health coverage (so that employees are not tied to jobs solely for health coverage, but have portability of affordable coverage)
- Enact meaningful medical liability reform – to increase access, and reduce added costs and inefficiencies from defensive medicine for federal programs and incentivize state liability reforms
- Block-grant Medicaid so that states aren’t burdened by unfunded, crippling, one-size-fits-all federal mandates, so that states can implement solutions to address their unique health care needs
These provisions are not Santorum's alone, but are essentially the same as nearly every other conservative candidate for the White House, and more widely, conservatives in general.
What's different is why Santorum backs these provisions and rails against ObamaCare. It all goes back to his firm belief in his daughter and the opportunity to gain the best care for her and at-risk patients like her. The question of whether he's right or not and American's health care perceptions will go a long way toward answering the question of his chances for the Republican nomination, and ultimately, his bid for the White House.