Forum Panelists Discuss Health Reform Implementation in Kansas, Missouri

Forum panelists discuss health reform implementation in Kansas, Missouri

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Affordable Care Act is not a magic bullet that will solve all of the nation’s health care ills, panelists said during a discussion at the Kauffman Foundation Conference Center last week.

For instance, said Ryan Barker, the expanded health insurance coverage promised through the ACA does not guarantee availability of providers.

“Just because you have an insurance card does not mean you have access to healthcare,” said Barker, director of health policy for the Missouri Foundation for Health in St. Louis. “The ACA starts to work around the edges on some of this, but it is not the solution to all of this.”

He used his 8-year-old adopted son as an example.

His son has mental health issues, and even though the boy is on Barker’s employer-based coverage, the family encountered a nine-month wait to see a child psychiatrist in St. Louis.

Agreement came from Sheldon Weisgrau, director of the Health Reform Resource Project at the Kansas Association for the Medically Underserved in Topeka.

Weisgrau addressed a specific scenario, outlined by an audience member, who said a mother had recently contacted him because she could not find a treatment bed for her son, who was unemployed, uninsured, and addicted to methamphetamines.

“Is the person like the one you describe still going to have problems with access? Perhaps,” he said. “But the fact that they don’t have insurance won’t be a problem anymore.”

Signed into law in March 2010, estimates are that the ACA will expand health insurance coverage to an additional 32 million Americans when fully implemented in 2019.

Many of the major provisions of the law are scheduled to take effect in 2014. Those include:

  • Expanding Medicaid coverage to individuals with incomes up to 133 percent of the poverty level;
  • Establishing state-based health insurance exchanges, which are designed to provide affordable coverage to small businesses and individuals; and
  • Requiring U.S. citizens and legal residents to have health insurance, the so-called “individual mandate.”

The Community Advisory Committee of the Health Forward Foundation organized Thursday’s forum.

Among the roughly 60 attendees were health and nonprofit officials from around the area, including representatives from the REACH Healthcare Foundation, which is based in Merriam, Kan.

The panel also included: Jay Angoff, acting regional director for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Andrea Routh, executive director of the Missouri Health Advocacy Alliance in Jefferson City; and Cindy Hermes, director of public outreach for the Kansas Insurance Department.

Among the points made by those panelists were:

  • Angoff said that anti-fraud provisions of the law will help constrain the rise in health care costs, noting a federal Medicare bust in May that resulted in charges against 107 individuals in seven cities accused in false-billing schemes of approximately $452 million.
  • Routh told the story of a hairdresser friend who is in her 40s, but has not had a mammogram for six years because she can’t afford health insurance. The expanded Medicaid contemplated by the law would most likely help her friend get that important screening, she said.
  • Hermes said that, in designing its health insurance exchange, Kansas wants as many qualified plans as possible. “We want lots of competition – free market,” she said.

Some attendees left with unanswered questions and concerns.

The Rev. Harold Johnson, of Faith Deliverance Family Worship Center in Kansas City, Kan., said he wanted more information about how the law can expand coverage and reduce costs at the same time. He is a REACH board member.

And Jacqueline Hill, a student in the Health Policy & Management Program at the University of Kansas Medical Center, wondered if information on new coverage availability and assistance would make it to remote corners of Kansas.

Even with the best intentions of disseminating information, she said, sometimes “it does not reach the people who need it the most.”

KCPT taped the roughly two-hour forum. The TV station is scheduled to broadcast the discussion at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 4.

The Health Forward Foundation is proud to partner with the Kansas Health Institute news service to provide weekly health stories about health and policy issues impacting the greater Kansas City region. This News Service is an editorially independent program of the Kansas Health Institute and the Health Forward Foundation and is committed to objective coverage of health issues.

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