ELKHART — While some benefits of the health care reform act have already kicked in, millions more Americans will begin to benefit from the various policy changes in the next two years, according to a regional director from the U.S. Department of Health of Human Services.
That will happen through the establishment of health care exchanges and expansion of Medicaid, moves that will ensure more people have access to health care services, said Kenneth Munson, regional director of HHS, at a luncheon Wednesday as part of the Minority Health Coalition’s annual luncheon at Lerner Theatre’s Crystal Ballroom.
“It’s through those two ways, we’re talking about tens of millions of people being able to obtain health care coverage who don’t have it right now,” Munson said.
Munson spent much of his time touting some of the early successes and discussing some of the upcoming changes that are part of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
Munson pointed out that 3.1 million people between the ages of 21 and 26 are now included in their parents’ health plan and that children with pre-existing health conditions can no longer be denied coverage.
Nationwide, about 130 million people have pre-existing health conditions that prevent them from qualifying for insurance coverage, but that will change as more of the reform effort is implemented, he said.
In the past, even small out-of-pocket copays have prevented people from seeking health services, he said.
The law has already expanded opportunities for some people to gain access to preventative care. As an example, Munson pointed to the case of a woman who had not seen a doctor for six years, but had a mammogram without having to pay a copay. She was diagnosed with cancer, but without the free service, the woman would have learned of the disease much later.
President Barack Obama’s re-election significantly reduced any chance the law will be repealed through Congress.
“It makes it a little more clear that we won’t have as many of the political fights,” Munson said.
Regardless, many Republican governors are resisting the notion of setting up state-run health exchanges or expanding Medicaid.
Indiana Gov.-elect Mike Pence has signaled his opposition to establishing a state exchange, meaning the state of Indiana will likely default to a federal program.
“From our perspective, either way would be good for the patient and the person who wants to buy insurance,” Munson said. “The federal government doesn’t have a preference.”
Also speaking at the Luncheon were Greg Losasso, president of Elkhart General Hospital and Beacon Health System, and Patricia Gremaux, who heads up the hospital’s business development and community outreach.
Both said the hospital has been working since the health care reform act was passed by Congress to start adjusting to changes.