Before an overflow crowd of 100 at the Concord Senior Center, George Miller and other speakers celebrated the one year anniversary of the Health Care Act, which was signed by President Obama on March 23, 2010. Dr. William Walker of the County health services was present, who Miller called his mentor on provisions of the bill, called the Federal program the single most important thing for the health services of the county.
Dr. Walker said that 500 dependents in the County are now eligible for care and that the eventual coverage under a Federal program would relieve the county of a major fiscal burden. The biggest threat to the county health is the effort to repeal this act.
Congressman Miller expressed great satisfaction with being a leader in the Health Care Act but wanted everyone to know that it was a collective effort from many people in the community such as Dr. Walker and other physicians and nurses that helped with different aspects through advisory meeting both in the community and in D.C. He wished that the provisions that only kick in at 2014 would kick in right away. Further he looks forward to elimination of the ‘donut hole’ in coverage that is caused by a lag of coverage after a set limit is reached before a second coverage amount starts.
Miller said the act is making a significant difference across the country with tens of thousand of employees of small businesses getting coverage and that 40% of them are being covered for the first time. This was made possible by tax credits given to the small businesses. He said that they were monitoring the effects on small business and that this was a positive impact. He also spoke very glowingly about the role of development of Community Health Centers of which there is one in the West County as well as a dental center in Vacaville. These centers he feels will be a way to ease burdens on the Emergency Rooms and provide early treatment to a host of conditions leading to an over all lower cost of health care. He sees the role of Community Health Centers as a means to address the fundamental health status of the community.
The congressman chided those who advocate repeal of the act, as well as those who are for a voucher system stating, “people shopping for themselves with a voucher is not the way.” The implication is that the voucher system plays into the hands of the existing insurance scheme that is systemically not working. He called the current act as containing ‘drivers’ that will bring down the cost of health care though he did not specify them. Kaiser was held up as a good example of a company functioning in the current market.
Part of the moving presentation was the stories from three individuals who have benefited from the act in its first year. These included a young lady who graduated from Concord High with a precursor for a possible MS condition who was able to continue to be covered under her families plan while in College though now 22. Another couple with a child with a seriously ill child whose 2-week stay in a hospital without intensive care or special attention costs $200K a fifth of their lifetime cap and now they have the cap on the care removed. Further there was well-spoken teenager with diabetes that can now look forward to reasonable coverage without the pre-existing ban.
The recent news of a delay in price rise by Blue Cross was mentioned as an example that there is growing pressure on the insurance companies to redirect their efforts to reducing the costs. However, it was not really made clear in the talk as to how that is all related although the act does call for a relationship between revenue collected and application towards real medical costs as opposed to administration and profits.