Last week, the Supreme Court announced the long-awaited decision on the constitutionality of health care reform. The Justices upheld the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare or Health Care Reform.
What does this mean for a patients served by free clinics like Lahai Health? That’s a tough question…
Finding answers continues to be challenging because health care reform is still a contentious issue, with supporters and critics on both sides. Even though the Supreme Court upheld the law, it is possible that national leaders elected in November could nullify the law. Further, leaders elected at the state level will influence how the law is implemented locally.
Lahai Health has established a team of individuals who are studying the issue. We are reading newspapers, journals, and blogs, and talking to lots of people! We’re talking to health care providers, elected officials and candidates for elected positions, hospital administrators, educators, public health experts, our patients and volunteers, other free clinic directors, and more. And we’re asking questions:
Will the patients we see now be able to purchase health insurance through the new insurance exchanges?
Will our patients be able to access health care, even if they do have insurance, with the current shortage in primary care providers? (Did you know only 11% of medical students choose family practice?)
When individuals purchase insurance through the exchanges, will the coverage they can afford give them access to primary and preventive care, or will most have access to care only catastrophic health issues?
Who will fall through the cracks and still not have access to health care? Access to health care could still be challenging; just because someone has an insurance card does not mean he or she can find a doctor who will accept it.
In the midst of all the changes and challenges, how can we improve the quality of care we provide?
How should Lahai Health change to continue providing quality compassionate health care to those who still in need?
What are the leading candidates’ opinions on health care reform?
How will the health care delivery system change over the next several years?
Historically, free clinics like Lahai Health have filled the gap for those who could not access health care through the existing safety net. Now free clinics are seen as an important component of this safety net, providing millions of dollars in free care to thousands of patients annually. And there will always be people who fall through the cracks of whatever system is in place.
As the law stands now, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that approximately 27 million people will still be uninsured in 2019, five years after the law is implemented. The need will still be great, and depending on legislative changes that occur nationally and locally, may be greater than anticipated.
The conversations, reading and planning of our Health Care Reform Team will help us determine how to best meet the need in our community as we move towards and beyond 2014 when Health Care Reform is to become effective.
What do you think? How will Health Care Reform impact accessibility to health care for low-income people? And can how Lahai Health best meet health needs within our community? We’d love to hear from you!