By SR. CAROL KEEHAN, DC
CHA president and chief executive officer
With the election behind us, we now must focus on some very important issues for our communities and our country. Most obvious is that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will continue being implemented. So far, it has made wonderful gains for those who had insurance including Medicare patients. Insurance coverage has been made more comprehensive, more secure and more affordable. Medicare is covering more preventive services without co-pays, closing the donut hole and the solvency of the program has been extended.
This coming year, we have the opportunity to put in place wonderful new programs designed to give insurance coverage and access to health care to 30 million to 32 million Americans who lack it now. The Affordable Care Act will do this with the expansion of Medicaid and insurance exchanges. This is the year that in each community we serve, we must work to assure these programs are in place, are accessible and are a success.
In some states, the health insurance exchanges are well on their way to implementation. CHA has been working with several partners in the coalition called Enroll America to develop tool kits for states to use to make this process simple, clear and easy to enroll in. We know that during the very polarized election cycle, a number of states have said they would not participate in exchanges or expanded Medicaid. Already several have said they are rethinking that decision. States that do not develop state exchanges will have federal ones operative in their state.
The Medicaid expansion has met some of the same opposition even though it is 100 percent federally funded the first couple of years and then funded at 90 percent. Again, we are hearing some states are rethinking that, and we must work to get all states on board.
The people who have been waiting so long for insurance are the main reason we must urge states to implement the exchanges and expanded Medicaid. This is the opportunity to make a huge difference in their lives. It is one that we, along with many others, including our Church, have worked for decades to achieve. Getting insurance for 32 million of the 48 million uninsured is such an important and life-changing accomplishment.
We also know that we are responsible for the health of our ministries, and we accepted significant decreases in reimbursement to achieve this gain for the people in our communities. Those decreases are to be offset by many more patients with insurance. The fiscal health of our business communities is also significantly impacted by having such a large percentage of uninsured now covered and avoiding the significant cross-subsidization of their health care costs.
As we embark on this, we also recognize that our country has many other challenges. We must continue the progress out of recession, deal with the sequestration question and as Catholics we have a special concern to achieve resolution of the mandate issue. Negotiating all of these fairly will take good will and patience. CHA will work with our members, our elected leaders and our bishops as we work through these issues. We must work together for solutions that are fair and do not threaten the most vulnerable.
Let us work together to put the partisan and uncivil discourse that characterized our election cycle behind us and unite to work for a health care system that serves our country so much better. We are the ones with the health care expertise and commitment, and we owe leadership on this to those we serve.
Copyright © 2012 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States
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