Neil McLaughlin: Families USA was a strong supporter of the health reform legislation that was eventually passed by Congress, and President Obama signed into law. Why did you support it? Why do you think it's good for America?
Ron Pollack: Well, first, let's take a look at what the alternative would have been if we didn't pass health reform. Each passing year, the cost would have continued to skyrocket. More and more people would have been priced out of health coverage they used to take for granted. And, so as a result, I think we would have seen a continuing deterioration of access to quality, affordable care. This legislation puts us on the road to fix that. It means that some of the biggest problems with the healthcare system will be dealt with—things like people being denied coverage through a pre-existing health condition or charged a discriminatory premium or having their coverage rescinded when all of the sudden they get sick. It means that people are going to get help with affording coverage. We're going to have a new marketplace through the so-called exchanges where people will have a broad selection of plans. And middle-class families that can't afford health coverage, they're going to get subsidies so that coverage is affordable. There'll be limits on out-of-pocket costs. For seniors, there's going to be significant improvements because the big coverage gap that they have on prescription drugs—euphemistically called the ‘doughnut hole'—that's going to get fixed. Young adults are going to continue to have coverage through their parents. So there's so much to like about this legislation in terms of improving the situation for families across America.
Neil McLaughlin: Many providers are worried about the law. They think it may destroy the hospitals or medical practices. Are their fears justified?
Ron Pollack: I don't think so. I think for healthcare providers, I think this is going to turn out to be something very good. It is true that some of the providers are going to get lesser payment per capita. There are going to be efforts to try to keep costs down, but what you're also going to see is a much greater increase in volume. You're going to see, according to the Congressional Budget Office, 32 million people gaining coverage who are uninsured today. Others who are underinsured are going to get better coverage. And I think groups like hospitals, which have to cope with a large and growing amount of uncompensated healthcare, I think that's going to turn around. I think physicians are going to find that they've got more paying customers, pharmaceutical companies are going to have a better chance of selling their drugs, and more people are going to have health insurance, so the insurance industry, I think, is going to do well. Now I think the health industry—whether it's hospitals, doctors, pharmaceutical companies, insurers—I think they're all going to come out with a big net plus from what would have been a situation if health reform did not pass.
Neil McLaughlin: How do you think the law will affect midterm elections?
Ron Pollack: Well, it's not clear what the impact will be. Right now it appears that the nation's reaction to health reform is mixed. What's interesting is that in these various surveys that show there's a mixed reaction, it's about 50-50. When you ask people about specific provisions in the legislation, there's overwhelming support for those things. And what that tells me is that the more people understand what's in this legislation, the greater the support is going to be. There's a lot of confusion, which is understandable. This debate lasted for about 14 months. It was very contentious. There were five different committees that had jurisdiction over this legislation. And so people are confused. But I think it is clear: The more people understand what's in this legislation and how it will affect their lives, I think this is going to be more and more popular.
Neil McLaughlin: That leads us to our next question, which I believe is how to shape the message going into November, and I know Families USA is doing some work along those lines. Would you tell us about that?
Ron Pollack: Well, I don't know if you and your viewers remember the old TV series ‘Dragnet,' where Sgt. Friday would say, ‘Just the facts, ma'am'? Well, that's what I think we need to do. You've got to explain the facts to people. What's in the legislation? No hype; no spin. Just explain what's in the legislation. And that's what Families USA is doing. We're in Chicago right now because we just had an event—part of our Health Reform Road Show. We're doing this in communities all across the country. They're media-centric events designed to make sure that people learn about what's in the legislation through the print media and the electronic media. We're issuing reports about different facets of the legislation, and we're specifying what the impacts will be state by state. So it is our hope that, as we explain this to the American public, they'll have a clearer understanding of what's fact and what's fiction. I think in the process, we're going to find this legislation very helpful. It's not perfect. I don't know of any legislation that's ever passed the United States Congress that's perfect. But it is a huge step in the right direction. And it creates a foundation for future changes that I think all take us in a direction that ensures that more people have access to high-quality, affordable healthcare.
Neil McLaughlin: Republicans in several states don't seem to be as enthusiastic about it as you are. They said they will try either through lawsuits or other legislative maneuvers to repeal the law. Do you think they'll succeed?
Ron Pollack: Well, I used to be a law school dean. I used to do a lot of litigation. I argued two cased in the United States Supreme Court on the same day—won them both. So I know a little bit about litigation. I think these lawsuits are purely political lawsuits. I think they're frivolous in terms of their merits. So I don't think those lawsuits are going to win. I don't think they're going to deter our moving forward. Now there are going to be other efforts beyond litigation. I think we're going to see various referendums and pieces of state legislation adopted. I think in the long run, as more and more people learn what's in this legislation, how it will affect them in the pocketbook, and how it will affect their healthcare, I think people are going to say, ‘We better not sound like we're trying to repeal or eviscerate this legislation because this is getting more and more popular.' So I think this legislation is going to be stable. I think the challenge for all of us at this point, is to implement it effectively. It means hard work at the federal level and in states all across the country. We're going to work hard to try to make sure that this good legislation is implemented properly.
Neil McLaughlin: Thank you, Ron Pollack, for talking with us today. We appreciate it.
Ron Pollack: It's a great delight to be with you.