Dr. Oliver Fein’s presents “Update on Health Care Reform” in Ithaca, New York

May 22, 2013

Dr. Oliver Fein professor of clinical medicine and clinical public health at Weill Medical College of Cornell University presented an “Update on Health Care Reform” to an enthusiastic audience of over 50 people at the Unitarian Church in Ithaca on May 16th. Dr. Fein discussed various health insurance aspects of Health Care Reform.

He began by discussing some of the positive effects of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). New York State has already received over three hundred billion dollars from the federal government to implement the ACA Health Insurance Exchange, known as the Health Benefit Exchange in New York State. This fall, individuals and small businesses, will have to make decisions about health insurance offered by the state Health Benefit Exchange. One question raised by Dr. Fein was: what affect will it have on the Exchange if those who are healthy right now opt to absorb the penalty for not enrolling rather than pay the annual premium costs for the Exchange plans?

Another positive effect of the ACA will be that Medicaid eligibility will expand to include those whose income is 133% of the 2014 Federal Poverty Level. But even with this expanded access to health insurance, Dr. Fein noted, that this will still leave 1.675 million New Yorkers without health insurance.

IMG_8990Dr.Fein identified benefits of the single-payer system – namely, all residents of the United States are automatically enrolled in a publicly-funded/privately delivered health insurance plan; the single-payer system would offer comprehensive coverage with maximum choices of doctors, nurse practitioners, hospitals, and operate without co-pays and deductibles; and because the administrative costs would be substantially lower, the money saved could be re-directed to provide coverage for those left uninsured or poorly insured by the ACA.

Dr. Fein admitted that, while the national single-payer system is not something that will happen over-night, the positive steps that have been taken – and continue to be taken – toward it are indefatigable. Grassroots’ movements in Vermont and California are especially persistent and continue to gain support from legislators for the passage of single-payer health care.

Dr. Fein identified specifics of “New York Health”, the proposed legislation that would establish single-payer health coverage in New York State. The legislation will eliminate the financial burden of large deductibles and copayments which serve as a barrier to accessing health care, and also impoverish many New Yorkers. “New York Health” creates a publically funded and privately delivered health insurance system that promotes prevention and care coordination.

Participation becomes affordable based on income, rather than a set of premiums and unknown out of pocket costs throughout the year. While the bill does not cover long term care, an important component of the continuum of care, it does require that long term care coverage be addressed within five years of passage. Dr. Fein concluded that though, the Affordable Care Act brings many changes to our system, there remains much to be done to achieve the goal of quality, affordable single-payer healthcare for all.

The event was Co-sponsored by Statewide Senior Action Council, the Social Justice Committee of First Unitarian Society of Ithaca, and the Ithaca Health Alliance.


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