MACMLA 2014 Timely Keynote on Health Reform – How Did We Get Here, What the Heck is Going On, and What Next?

Dr. Leighton KuReported by JoLinda Thompson

Dr. Leighton Ku of the Center for Health Policy Research at George Washington University delivered a timely and information packed keynote address to MAC MLA members for Monday’s keynote address to open the conference. Dr. Ku detailed the history of health insurance reform, and universal coverage efforts in the 20th century, starting with New Deal efforts to provide health care with Social Security, the origins of our current employer-provided system post WWII, and the establishment of Medicare and Medicaid in the 60’s. More recently, he discussed why Clinton’s Health Security Act failed, but how Republican alternatives provided a model for the Affordable Care Act.

As someone who has been involved with Affordable Care Act policy, he provided insight and perspective on the implementation and political battles over the Affordable Care Act. He outlined successes (the number of uninsured has dropped from 55 million to 30 million) and areas needing improvement (complicated nature of the exchanges and spotty adoption of Medicaid expansion by states). Challenges to the current law are both political and legal. Halbig vs. Burwell , which may be taken up by the Supreme Court next year, could prove a major hurdle in the current political environment. However, Dr. Ku does not expect that major elements of the law will be repealed anytime soon.

In closing, he spoke about how public opinion has not changed much yet, with an individual’s position about the law acting as a litmus test of their political ideology. He wonders if the facts even matter anymore.   “As a researcher, I’m disappointed.” We’re currently locked in a polarized system which makes improving what we have difficult. He would like to see changes including simplification of the exchanges, expanded consumer education, and a focus on prevention campaigns. He says that in the end time may be the best healer.

This was an informative and thought-provoking keynote to open the conference, and we thank Dr. Ku for sharing his knowledge and insights with us.Dr. Leighton Ku

Dr. Leighton Ku

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