The right to access affordable, quality health care

The Equality State Policy Center believes that everyone has the right to access affordable, quality health care. Unfortunately, this is a distant dream for many in the Equality State. Statistics collected by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, one of the leading think tanks in health care, show that nearly 90,000 Wyomingites lack health insurance. About 15% of Wyoming’s population is served by the Medicaid program (health care for low-income people in certain eligibility categories) and Medicare (health care for people 65 years old and over). The percent of Medicare recipients matches national statistics, but the percent of Medicaid recipients is lower because Wyoming has close to the minimum allowable program under federal law. What happens when a person does not have health insurance and needs health care? Most people in that situation postpone care until it reaches a crisis point. Everyone has access to care in an emergency room, but that is the most expensive and inefficient way to deliver care. For example, diabetic medications and supplies typically cost several hundred dollars a year. For lack of these medications and supplies, a diabetic may arrive at the emergency room in a diabetic coma or with other complications of untreated diabetes – and treatment will cost tens of thousands of dollars, far more than preventing the crisis from happening in the first place. One of the drivers of high health care costs is the lack of coverage. Hospitals and other medical providers must cover costs through cost-shifting – charging insured and self-pay patients more to cover the costs of treating those who cannot pay. The Affordable Care Act (ACA), the federal health reform law, seeks to address this situation through numerous changes, some sweeping and some incremental. For example, the ACA already provides an insurance pool for high-risk individuals who have not been able to get reasonably-priced (or any) health insurance from a private insurer. It also requires insurers to cover children until age 26 on their parents’ policy, and prohibits insurers from denying coverage to high-risk children. In 2014, the more sweeping changes are slated to take place. At that time the government’s Medicaid program will be expanded to cover all individuals with incomes under 135% of the federal poverty level. States, which share the costs of the Medicaid program, will not have to cover the costs of any of the new eligibles for the first three years. Uninsured individuals with incomes above the Medicaid threshold will be required to buy a health insurance policy through their state health insurance exchange. The federal government will subsidize these purchases for individuals and families with incomes up to 400% of the federal poverty level. Policies on the exchanges will have to meet certain minimum requirements and be easily comparable to encourage value purchasing. Those who have health insurance can choose to keep their existing coverage.

Websites resources:

Kaiser Family Foundation Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Consumer Advocates Project Health CAPH Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act timeline Kaiser Family Foundation ACA descriptor