While many people in this region are uninsured and underserved, over the past decade, legislation like the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) and other health care transformations has made health care more accessible to many in our communities.
Local free clinics, community health centers, safety net hospitals and community organizations are seeing increased provider capacity, more effective care coordination, expanded use of technology and stronger advocacy efforts as emerging hallmarks of the area’s safety net system that have resulted in increased access to quality health care.
Health insured blog posts:
There is no question that the ACA has emerged as a primary driver of change across the entire health system since its passage in 2010. The sweeping legislation included provisions that make coverage more stable and affordable for those who already have it, while extending insurance protections to those who don’t. Perhaps most importantly from Health Forward’s perspective, the ACA strives to see even more of the U.S. population become insured. Lack of health insurance is a serious detriment to overall well-being – those who are uninsured are more likely to delay necessary care, forego preventive care, receive late-stage diagnoses, and have unmanaged chronic illnesses.
Improving access to care through federal and state insurance exchanges remains the centerpiece of the ACA. So far, the exchanges have played an important role in reducing the ranks of the uninsured, which have fallen from 14.4 percent nationwide in 2009 to 11.9 percent in 2015. In Kansas, 96,000 have gained coverage since the exchanges began in 2013; another 253,000 have been covered in Missouri.
During the first marketplace enrollment in 2013, Health Forward undertook outreach efforts to inform underserved and uninsured households about the new options available through the health insurance marketplace. The CoverKC Marketplace Coverage Initiative efforts included in-person enrollment assistance through certified application counselors, door-to-door canvassing, and mail and Internet advertising. The effort was continued in subsequent enrollments periods through grants to organizations such as United Way’s 211 and Mid-America Regional Council.
The exchanges and the subsidies they provide have helped ease the burden on safety net providers by finally putting health coverage within reach for millions. Yet some continue to fall through the cracks. Many have discovered that their incomes are too high to qualify for Medicaid but too low to be eligible for private plan subsidies. Their only remaining options are to remain uninsured or pay full price for insurance, something that is cost-prohibitive for most low-income individuals and families.
The rejection of Medicaid expansion by Kansas and Missouri legislators has left thousands uninsured; people who would otherwise have health coverage through Medicaid. Not only does this undermine care for vulnerable populations, including the working poor, but it also has increased the already heavy burden facing safety net providers.
While the journey has not always been easy, the difficulties of recent years have brought people together and helped us develop creative and sustainable solutions. We’re increasingly tackling our collective challenges in smarter, more cooperative ways to improve access to care in our region.
We’re proud of the efforts of local nonprofits for their collaboration and hard work on marketplace enrollment, and their continued conversations with policymakers about Medicaid expansion.
This blog post is part of A Healthy 10.