Since the federal health care reform statute, known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, was signed into law, many of Venice Family Clinic’s supporters have been eagerly awaiting details of how it will affect the Clinic and its patients. While some of those details will only be known in time, several are immediately apparent. Following are a few of the most important.
Many of Venice Family Clinic’s patients will obtain health coverage.
It is estimated that one-third to one-half of the Clinic’s uninsured patients will be covered by the provision expanding Medicaid, which is known as Medi-Cal in California. In addition, many patients whose incomes exceed Medi-Cal eligibility limits hopefully will succeed in purchasing federally subsidized health coverage through the new private insurance exchanges. Both of these provisions take effect in 2014; in the meantime, some low-income patients with preexisting conditions will qualify for new high-risk insurance pools.
After obtaining insurance, many current patients will continue to visit Venice Family Clinic.
Many, if not nearly all, current patients will continue to visit Venice Family Clinic after they obtain health coverage because 1) it is the medical home they know and trust, 2) it has the expertise to treat and manage conditions common to low-income populations, 3) it is close to where they live and/or work, 4) there is a shortage of primary care providers nationwide, including in L.A. County, and 5) only a small fraction of primary care providers on the Westside of L.A. County accept Medi-Cal.
New patients will seek out Venice Family Clinic.
Currently, there are thousands of people in Los Angeles County who, because they are uninsured, avoid all but the most urgent interactions with the health care system. Many of these who succeed in acquiring health coverage will eventually seek a primary care provider and, for some of the same reasons as existing patients, choose Venice Family Clinic.
The meantime is a long time.
As mentioned earlier, several of the most important provisions of the reform law will not take effect until 2014. Meanwhile, people will continue to get sick and injured, women will become pregnant, children will need physicals and immunizations for school, etc. It is all-important that support for organizations on the front lines of the health care crisis, such as Venice Family Clinic, remains as strong as ever.
The law will not provide universal coverage.
Even once all the provisions of the reform law are implemented, some 16 million Americans will remain uninsured. In addition, members of some populations that would ostensibly qualify for coverage—such as the mentally ill and the homeless—will inevitably fall through the cracks and require the help of a provider, like Venice Family Clinic, that will treat them regardless of their insurance status or ability to pay.
Something very special is within reach.
Currently, there are more low-income and uninsured people on the Westside of L.A. County than Venice Family Clinic has the financial capacity to reach. The federal health care reform law, in combination with sustained private support, offers hope that Venice Family Clinic can actually, finally, reach all of those in need in its community.
This story appeared in the Spring 2010 issue of Encounters. Click here to download the entire newsletter as a PDF.