Let’s put politics aside for a moment and figure out if the health care reform passed this weekend will benefit a small, rural county such as ours.
Some of our characteristics include: an aging population, high unemployment, large ranks of self employed, dearth of young families, a doctor’s shortage, and a real “have” and “have not” economic divide.
“We all know, and it’s been said over and over again, that our economy needs something, a jolt and I believe that this legislation will unleash tremendous entrepreneurial power to our economy,” Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi said Sunday night. “Imagine a society and an economy where a person could change jobs without losing health insurance, where they could be self-employed or start a small business. Imagine an economy where people could follow their passions or their talent and without having to worry that their children would not have health insurance.”
Under the legislation, small businesses with 100 employees or less will be able to join a health insurance exchange, benefiting from group rates and a greater choice of insurers, according to a district-by-district analysis on the impact of health care reform. There are 20,600 small businesses in our congressional district that could benefit from this provision, the report said.
The legislation will provide tax credits and other assistance to 19,500 small businesses.
All told, the reform would appear to offer some benefits to a workforce such as ours, which is largely self employed. Anything that encourages more entrepreneurism would be welcome, because many of the jobs that are being eliminated won’t return for a while.
There are 132,000 Medicare beneficiaries in our district. The legislation improves their benefits by providing free preventive and wellness care, improving primary and coordinated care, and enhancing nursing home care, according to the House report.
In addition, each year, 14,800 Medicare beneficiaries in the district enter the “donut hole” and are forced to pay the full cost of their prescription drugs. Under the bill, these beneficiaries will receive a $250 rebate in 2010, 50 percent discounts on brand name drugs starting in 2011, and complete closure of the donut hole within a decade. A typical beneficiary who enters the donut hole will see savings of over $700 in 2011 and over $3,000 by 2020.
QUALITY OF HEALTH CARE:
“The overhaul’s extension of insurance to millions of more Americans likely will add to the patient loads of many doctors, which could exacerbate the physician shortage and raises questions about whether having insurance will really mean gaining access to health care,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
The demands placed on physicians by the new legislation may lead to greater use of other health-care professionals, such as nurse practitioners and physician assistants.
The American Medical Association and AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) backed the plan despite some concerns.
Doctors, for example, are worried about a pending cut in Medicare reimbursement rates. The bill increases reimbursement rates for Medicaid, however.
The quality of care could be the biggest risk in our county when it comes to health care reform. We already have an acute doctor’s shortage. On the other hand, our hospitals are improving their facilities, such as a stroke center at Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital. In addition, other health-care professionals can handle some of the duties that doctors can’t.
“The legislation will give hospitals something they desperately need: more patients whose insurance will pay the bills. But officials at public and urban hospitals also worry that the law calls for cutting millions in federal aid dollars,” as the Journal stated.
All told, you’d think this would be an upside for Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital, where the uninsured tax the emergency room facilities.
OUR POOR AND UNINSURED:
The legislation will extend coverage to 44,500 residents in our district and protect 1,700 families from bankruptcy due to unaffordable health care costs.
It also will provide millions of dollars in new funding for nine community health centers.
An interactive graphic from the New York Times explaining the details of health care reform is here.
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