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Health care act a step forward - Greensboro News & Record: Home

February 9, 2016 · Greensboro, North Carolina

Health care act a step forward

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Posted: Sunday, February 16, 2014 4:22 am

Whew! We made it to 2014, when the majority of the Affordable Care Act provisions became effective. As a mom, I'm grateful. Both of our children have medical conditions that would have put them at risk of being denied insurance coverage prior to 2014.

Thanks to the federal law, people who have pre-existing conditions are now protected. And young adults under the age of 26 (that includes my children) can get health coverage through their parents' health plans — lessening a major burden on young adults looking for good jobs with health coverage in a recovering economy.

This gets even more personal for me. I faced my own breast cancer diagnosis in 2013. Thanks to early detection and the excellent care I received at Cone Health, I am cancer-free today.

I now rest easier at night knowing that the ACA ends lifetime and yearly dollar limits on coverage and makes it illegal for health insurance companies to arbitrarily cancel health insurance.

The reality is that none of us knows what tomorrow may bring, especially when it comes to health.

And what about our neighbors? According to the North Carolina Institute of Medicine, in Guilford County we have about 80,000 uninsured people (nearly 17 percent fo our population).

These individuals and families have trouble accessing the health care system but are often those most in need of health care. Providing care for these individuals is a tremendous challenge for Guilford County.

Jeri Rowe's column ("Locals create health care model," Jan. 5) and other coverage in the News & Record detail the work that the Rev. Odell Cleveland, professor Bob Wineberg and others in our faith community are doing.

They are setting a big table. We need a big table and all of our talents and wisdom if indeed we are going to be our brother's keepers. Right now, providing care for those 80,000 uninsured residents falls primarily on the shoulders of our safety-net organizations.

Since Cone Health Foundation's founding in 1997, we have invested $66 million in the community, with more than half that amount providing access to health care.

The need is much greater. In fact, the need is much greater than what the faith, philanthropic or the health care community can each do alone.

The ACA has two levers to provide for the uninsured: the expansion of Medicaid and subsidies for insurance premiums. Twenty-five states and the District of Columbia are accepting federal funds to expand health coverage through Medicaid.

North Carolina is not one of them. That is unfortunate — particularly since the federal government will pay all of the cost of covering those newly eligible for Medicaid through 2016 and at least 90 percent after that. The state's refusal to expand Medicaid means that between 300,000 and 500,000 North Carolinians will remain without health insurance. Many of them will, ironically, be too poor to qualify for subsidies under the ACA.

Failing to expand Medicaid has serious economic consequences. A study by Regional Economic Models Inc. found that Medicaid expansion would eventually create 25,000 jobs in our state. Hospitals and health providers across the state, including Cone Health, have experienced layoffs and significant operating losses attributed in part to the failure to expand Medicaid. So, Medicaid expansion makes sense from both access to care and economic standpoints.

The ACA has arrived — with all its mandates and challenges. Like much of the health reform preceding it, the ACA is confusing, frustrating and incomprehensible to most, and it has been vilified and criticized for these and other flaws.

However, the ACA attempts to address the three biggest issues in our current health care system — accessibility, quality and cost. Any success in these areas is reason for celebration, not just for my family, but for our community.

Susan Fitzgibbon Shumaker is president, Moses Cone Health Foundation.

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