The Affordable Care Act is coming, but who makes use of it?
Elements of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that will take effect Jan. 1, 2014, are expected to make more people eligible for public or subsidized health insurance.
In King County, this means some level of government subsidy for health care will be available to more than 180,000 people, including about 7,000 homeless people.
At a March 14 forum at Seattle City Hall, a panel of health care leaders explored the challenges of the program.
Members of the panel said the effectiveness of the ACA will depend on whether it reaches those who are disenfranchised, and therefore, typically hardest for public health programs to reach.
As it stands now, many people who are eligible for current subsidies are not taking advantage of them due to lack of awareness or fear. To remedy this problem, King County plans to combine community outreach with selective assistance to those most in need.
Language could be a barrier. Community-based partnerships have had success in the past, but Teresita Batayola, who works with the Asian and Pacific Islander community, pointed out that a virtual system set up by the ACA is available only in English and Spanish.
Access to clinical health care is clearly the number-one issue of disparity, said panelist David Fleming, director of Seattle-King County Public Health. But, he added, improving access is only one aspect of the overall challenge to improve public health.
Toward the end of the forum, retired school nurse Mary Pruitt asked the panel how single-payer universal health care might affect these issues.
“Hallelujah,” one person replied. “That would be the dream.”
In addition to Batayola and Fleming, the panel included Dr. Ben Danielson, director of Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic, and Tom Trompetor, CEO of HealthPoint. The event was organized and moderated by Councilmember Richard Conlin.
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