Friday, October 18, 2013

Obamacare moving forward in the Rochester/Finger Lakes area

Posted By on Fri, Oct 18, 2013 at 11:31 AM

In 2008, multiple polls were telling us that most Americans ranked the rising cost of health care and the possible loss of health coverage as two of their biggest concerns. And they wanted Washington lawmakers to do something.

After two elections and a US Supreme Court decision upholding the Affordable Care Act, you really have to wonder if defunding the ACA was ever the real reason that the Tea Party extremists in the Republican Party shut the government down for half a month.

Conservatives’ concerns about the long-term financial health of country are valid. They’re right: the country is on an unsustainable path and reform is needed. But our health care system needs to be part of that reform.

Predicting the ACA will bring about the end of days is a stretch. At this stage of the law's implementation, there’s not enough data to know how well it's working or how it will impact the economy. That was a point made yesterday at “The Affordable Care Act: Local Implementation Challenges,” a forum held by the Rochester chapter of the League of Women Voters.

The Obama administration has received, and rightly so, plenty of criticism for not doing a better job of explaining the ACA and what the effort is all about. And when you take an objective look at the law, there are elements that should please both conservatives and liberals.

The ACA is designed to provide affordable coverage to at least the majority of the nearly 45 million Americans who are currently uninsured. Bending the cost curve, slowing the pace of insurance rate hikes, and improving quality are also among the administration’s main goals.

Until earlier this month, only a few components of the program were implemented; the bulk of the ACA is just now moving forward. What’s been less apparent to most Americans is that our health care system is transitioning from a fee for service to a fee-for-performance-and outcome program. The emphasis is shifting from treatment to prevention and from paying providers for visits to paying them for how well their patients are doing.

Panelists Lynne Scalzo, VP of Excellus BC/BS; Michelle Casey, program director with Finger Lakes Health System; and Kim Wynn, manager with Coordinated Care Services discussed cost containment for medical services through better use of technology, fewer re-admissions to hospitals and emergency rooms, and better disease management.

And competition between insurance companies should help to provide increasingly affordable plans.
There are more than 300,000 New Yorkers in the central and Finger Lakes area without insurance and because of ACA, panelists said, more than 40,000 have been enrolled.

While much has been made about the spotty roll out and faulty technology, if we put the political posturing aside for a moment, one thing is clear: the demand for affordable coverage is there. Almost any business owner in the country would welcome customer demand that’s this high.

Though the ACA is typically characterized by critics as another big government entitlement program, the federal government already pays for nearly 60 percent of every $1 spent on health care. Whether it’s through the ACA or a revised version of it, we need to make better use of those dollars and cover more Americans. That would not only improve the health of individual Americans, but it would go a long way toward improving the economic health of the country.

For more information about New York's plan, go to www.nystateofhealth.ny.gov, or call (585) 613-7662. 

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