How to compare Obamacare and its House GOP replacement bill — in a nutshell

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James M. Berklan
James M. Berklan

When I was in high school, there was a set of pamphlets called CliffsNotes that summarized great works of literature.

Typically festooned with black-and-yellow diagonal stripes or other imagery, many students treated them like dirty magazines at the grocery store. That is, if you were ever lucky enough to get your hands on one, look at it but don't let any adults see you doing it.

Clifton "Cliff" Keith Hillegass was a great analyst who revealed story plots and themes that a youngster might not otherwise consider. Who'd have ever thought “Huckleberry Finn,” “Julius Caesar” or “Animal Farm” had all those deeper meanings?

Clarity and mind-expanding theories were central to the “Notes” success.

I'm happy to report I might have found a CliffsNotes equivalent for the recently passed American Health Care Act. You know, the Obamacare repeal and replace bill that the House approved last week. The chart I speak of is gold.

At 137 pages, the bill itself is about 50% longer than “The Pearl,” the Steinbeck quick read sought out by so many shortcut-seeking high schoolers.  

The key is that to take this new AHCA bill in context, one also has to know what it's trying to replace. That would be the nearly 1,000-page Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”).

Now, the value of a CliffsNotes-like document starts to grow, doesn't it? You bet your pre-existing-condition behind it does.

For a great side-by-side comparison of how the House bill stacks up against Obamacare, click on the National Academy for State Health Policy's link here.  

It is the clearest, most comprehensive dissection I have yet seen. A chart that even a non-wonk can love. Go ahead, it won't hurt.

Whether your concern is Medicaid expansion or quality improvement efforts, there is a colorful section for you.

It matters because with the Senate beginning to form its own proposal, some of these same terms and concepts will continue to pop up. Many of them could have a profound impact on your future. Whether you're considering these issues from a professional or personal point of view, they will hit home.

Best of all, you can check out this chart without worrying that anybody's looking over your shoulder or giving you disapproving looks. It's free, along with other educational documents on the topic.

(I just looked up CliffsNotes online and was blown away to find that analyses appear to be free for these great works of literature. Not only that, but there are hundreds of works cited, and even college-test prep materials.)

For the needy student — especially one who might not have paid attention in class or (gasp) not actually done assigned readings — Cliff could lead an enterprising scholar to GPA nirvana. For that reason, most teachers, as I recall, did not even acknowledge Cliffs Notes (as they were originally named), let alone encourage their use. They wanted the actual book to be read.

I used them anyway as study aides whenever possible. This was pre-internet days, so the current possibility of online surfing for analyses, background or even full papers simply wasn't an option. In addition, the “For Dummies” and “Idiot's Guide” self-help book series didn't exist. Cliffs, therefore, was my path to higher understanding. You just had to be careful not to quote Cliff verbatim or too extensively.

In my case, I found that combining Cliff's ideas with some of my own, and also the teacher's, could create lines of thought welcomed by paper-graders who were, no doubt, weary from typical teenage prattle. (For a modern-day example of wearying, self-serving prattle, check out any cable news show tonight.)

It's time to elevate the discussion and use whatever tools you can to become master of your own healthcare universe. Get on with it.

Follow James M. Berklan @JimBerklan.


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Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Marty Stempniak.