Aside from the pejorative criticisms and surreal media-driven political theatre of the new health care reform bill in partisan-laden Washington, many Americans on this final day of passage ask what affect the bill will have on them.
Naturally, as Miamians are well aware, the current profit-driven health care system is well antiquated and in need of the necessary reform being debated amongst lawmakers today on Capitol Hill. However, what do the provisions in the nearly 2,000 page bill do for those most in need in South Florida?
According to a 2009 U.S. Census Bureau report, nearly 31% of Miami-Dade County’s residents are uninsured placing it amongst the worst in the nation. The Jackson Health System is in dire financial straits on the brink of bankruptcy and the unemployment rate is rising after the housing bubble burst of last year.
Thus, given the bill’s direct ban on the ability of insurance companies to not cover someone due to pre-existing conditions, this would significantly affect the number of the elderly who are not yet old enough to qualify for medicare and unable to afford unjustified sky-rocketing costs from big insurance. The new pool of citizens in South Florida able to purchase health care insurance would dramatically rise giving way to increased competition amongst insurance providers and,consequently, lead to lower premiums.
Second, the bill would subsidize private coverage for low-and middle- income people and would require many employers to offer coverage to their employees or possibly pay a penalty. This provision in the bill will most directly affect thousands of South Floridians as most fall into this income bracket and own or work for a small business. The rule could possibly lead to a situation of nearly full coverage of this group- a stunning difference from the status-quo.
Lastly, the bill would-most controversially- require all citizens to have some sort of health insurance or be forced to pay a fine. This is the only direct government mandate for non-business owning citizens in the bill but could be the most significant element to the entire document.
Considering Jackson’s current problems with having treated many uninsured over the years, this last provision would best work with preventive, not emergency care. For example, the emergency room would no longer be the first destination for someone unless their case demanded it and those who had more adequate coverage could get more care but for the first time in American history, there would not exist a prejudice between those who have and those who don’t have insurance.
Currently, under law, doctors and hospitals are required to treat anyone who is sent to the emergency room requiring immediate care; however, those who are uninsured are usually footed the bill shortly thereafter and let out earlier than recommended because of the financial burden they present to the hospital. Under this new bill, because uninsured South Floridians would have to buy some sort of insurance coverage of their choice, there would be a guarantee that hospitals would no longer be stuck with enormous costs and liable to unfair treatment from pharmaceutical companies whose hugely expensive drugs would then be used to serve insured and paying patients.
No matter how one may feel about the bill, nearly all would presumedly agree that it would present a marked improvement for South Florida’s overcrowded and understaffed health care debacle of a system. It would transform the “system” into an actual system and would be more fair and just to all of its citizens. The verdict is still out to see how the bill could re-shape health care long-term for the region but for now, this is the best alternative the nation has seen in generations.