Photo by Flickr user Fotos Gov/Ba / Creative Commons

Photo by Flickr user Fotos Gov/Ba / Creative Commons
Our current healthcare system is dysfunctional and inefficient. The costs of care are skyrocketing each year; yet the quality of care is not necessarily improving. The number of uninsured Americans keeps growing significantly. In 2010, President Obama signed legislation to revamp the nation’s healthcare system and to guarantee access to medical insurance for tens of millions of Americans. Although the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obama Care, is NOT the fix to our healthcare system, it is a good step in the right direction. The U.S. Supreme Court will consider the constitutionality of the new law this year. If the law is upheld, it will have a major impact on the Boyle Heights community.

In order to understand why healthcare reform is such a big deal, we must understand the dire situation of our healthcare system and how that can impact our community. As a nation, we pay more money for healthcare than any developed nation. And we significantly lag behind other industrialized nations in quality of care. And many people lack what is considered a basic right in other nations: health care for everyone.

California has the largest number of people without health insurance, at about 6.9 million, and 60 percent of those uninsured people are Latino, according to the California Healthcare Foundation. This staggering statistic shows how Latino communities like Bolye Heights bear the brunt of our broken healthcare system.

Health reform will make it much easier for people in Boyle Heights to obtain, pay for, and keep the health coverage they need. Here are a few things you should know about health reform:

    Ӣ The healthcare legislation aims to provide care to over 32 million uninsured people in the United States by expanding programs for low-income families and providing subsidies for working and middle class families so they can purchase private health insurance.

    ”¢ Under the new law, insurers can no one deny coverage to people with “pre-existing conditions.” That means that if you have a chronic disease like diabetes, you can still get health insurance and seek care with a doctor!

    Ӣ If you are under the age of 26, your parents insurance can be extended to you now because of health reform.

    Ӣ Many more people will become eligible for MediCal, the government healthcare plan. It will become available to U.S. citizens and most legal residents who are low-income single individuals (who earn up to $$14,404 in 2009) and low-income families of four (who earn up to $29,327 in 2009). While this provision becomes the law of the land nationally in 2014, all 58 California counties, except Fresno, have begun this expansion of MediCal early, including Los Angeles County. For more information, go here.

    ”¢ Health reform aims to lower the cost of care by requiring that everyone have insurance ”“ either through their employers, a government program or individual policies. If everyone has insurance, the thinking goes, the high costs of the sickest patients are offset by the low cost of the healthy.

    Ӣ By 2014, the government launches its requirement for individual insurance for those who are not eligible for employer insurance or a government program such as MediCal or Medicare. This means that if you are self-employed and a legal resident or citizen, you have to purchase some kind of health insurance for yourself or be fined. Subsidies, or financial support for buying coverage, also will begin in 2014. Remember, if you are low-income, you can apply to receive these subsidies.

    Ӣ Small and large employers have to provide health insurance, or they will be fined.

It is important to note that the Affordable Care Act is a very complex and detailed piece of legislation. Even many healthcare professionals still do not fully understand what will truly happen with healthcare reform. Try to become informed slowly about what changes you can expect to our healthcare system and how it will impact the community of Boyle Heights.

Victor M. Peña is a native and resident of Boyle Heights. He has a little over 5 years of healthcare experience working with healthcare organizations in Santa Barbara and Los Angeles Counties. He is currently completing his Masters in Business Administration with an emphasis in Management and manages a department at a hospital in Downtown Los Angeles.  

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