A local health official praises the increased coverage headed to Americans but worries about who will provide care to an influx of patients
The Supreme Court voted today in a 5-4 decision that the individual mandate in the 2010 Affordable Health Care Act is constitutional. The mandate allows the Federal Government to fine citizens who do not purchase health insurance when they could otherwise.
Sheryl Garland, vice president of health policy and community relations for VCU Health System, said with the Act vindicated by the nation’s highest court, “There are millions of people who will now have the opportunity to receive coverage.”
Garland, who develops relationships on federal and local levels to fund uninsured populations, said that there are over 50 million uninsured Americans. Approximately 1 million of those live in Virginia. “This law provides the opportunity to really fill in a gap in our health care system.”
Writing in the Court’s majority opinion (pdf), Chief Justice John Roberts summarized the Act:
Near-universal coverage will reduce uncompensated care, which will increase hospitals’ revenues, which will offset the government’s reductions in Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements to hospitals. Responsibility will be shared, as burdens and benefits balance each other.
For example, two components of the over 900-page Act stipulate that children and dependents less than 26 years of age cannot be refused coverage because of pre-existing medical conditions. Garland said that the Supreme Court’s ruling affirms those components.
She added that within two years, provisions in the Act will ensure that remaining adults cannot be denied coverage because of existing medical conditions. There will also be a creation of state-regulated health insurance exchanges. “I think it will have major implications for health care in this country.”
While optimistic the expanded coverage will benefit millions of Americans, Garland foresees complications when more of the population seek routine medical service. “That’s going to be a key issue going forward: will there be enough providers? That’s something, as a nation, we need to think about.”
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stock photo by rosmary