Critical Discussion On Health Care

Changes have been constant with the new adjustments in health care insurance coverage.

According to a group of health care professionals speaking at the James Prendergast Library on Tuesday, those changes will continue.

About 15 people attended the library-sponsored critical discussion panel on the upcoming health exchange insurance system. Those participating in the program included Roberta Keller, Chautauqua Opportunities executive director; Dr. Rudy Mueller; Greg Krauza, Chautauqua Chamber of Commerce member development director; Betsy Wright, WCA Hospital president and chief executive officer; Art Wingerter, Univera Healthcare president; and Ann Abdella, Chautauqua County Health Network executive director.

Abdella said the new system will start next year, with all Americans expected to be enrolled in a health care insurance plan. on Oct. 1, open enrollment starts with coverage beginning Jan. 1, 2014. There will be two programs in the health exchange insurance system – one for individuals and one for small businesses. She said people should be able to shop for insurance coverage on the Internet, which will be similar to shopping on popular online sale sites.

“You will be able to compare apples to apples,” she said. “There will be side-by-side comparisons.”

Those who don’t enroll in a health insurance plan will be penalized. Abdella said those penalties will increase year-by-year. She said in 2014 the penalty will be $95 for an adult, $37.50 for a child and $285 for a family or 1 percent of its income. In 2015, the penalty will be $325 for an adult, $162.50 for a child and $975 for a family or 2 percent of its income.

Wingerter said it is difficult to determine how many people will enroll into the health exchange insurance system, at first. He said young and health individuals may select to pay the penalty instead of paying more for an insurance plan.

“We don’t know for sure,” he said about how many people will enroll in the system.

Krauza said for those with questions on the health insurance exchange, the county’s chamber is a good place to start asking questions. For the past two years, the chamber has been offering a similar insurance exchange system for local businesses. He said business leaders can request chamber officials to visit for more information before making a decision. He said in speaking to business officials the past two years, many are confused by their options because there are so many available.

“Too much choice equals no choice,” he said.

Krauza said it is estimated 450,000 small business employees will join the exchange.

Mueller said the new health care coverage will hopefully lead to more people visiting physicians, which will lower visits to more expensive health care options like the emergency room. He said it will also help the underinsured receive the coverage they need, as well.

“There are 2.7 million people with no health insurance in the state,” he said. “There are probably 2 million underinsured.”

Keller said with more people with health insurance coverage, more children will receive proper medical examinations.

“Many children will be allowed the access they need,” she said so they can be diagnosed for childhood diseases and be treated at an earlier age.

Wright talked about the changes at WCA Hospital with the new the health insurance coverage plan through the Affordable Care Act. One change is a $16.4 billion cut in the health care industry. For WCA Hospital, that means $44.5 million has to be cut in the next 10 years.

Despite this obstacle, Wright said the hospital will continue to keep and attract new physicians and medical professionals.

“We believe the hospital is well positioned for the future,” she said.

For more information on the health exchange insurance system, visit www.healthcare.gov. The next critical discussion at the library will be on hydrofracking on March 21.