Millions of Americans without healthcare can now sign up for federally subsidized coverage.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is designed to increase access to healthcare and make health insurance more affordable, with greater protection, expanded coverage and tax credits that will help pay for the insurance.
“The law will help millions get the care they need when they need it,” said Leticia Cazares, director of outreach for the San Ysidro Health Center
San Ysidro Health Center has two satellite clinics in Chula Vista and two in National City.
The new law’s intent is to expand health coverage to the millions of uninsured or underinsured Americans.
Under the Affordable Care Act, more people would be eligible for Medi-Cal, including adults without children and families who previously were ineligible because of income limits.
By offering Medi-Cal to adults without children, Cazares said, the population of health insured Californians will boom.
Before the law took place, to be eligible for Medi-Cal a family needed to have a household income less than 100 percent of the federal poverty level, for a family of four that is about $23,550.
However, starting Jan. 1 income eligibility increases to $31, 322, so now those families who make less than that are eligible.
“It (Medi-Cal) expands to more people because with the current eligibility it would basically keep a lot of people from being eligible, ” Cazares said.
Health coverage is also expanding through the creation of the new low cost insurance plans in California’s health exchange or insurance marketplace called Covered California.
Cazares said the new health care plans offers more patient protections.
“These new plans will have more protection and benefits then ever before,” she said.
Cazares said a protection given to children is that children who were once denied health coverage in the past because of a pre-existing condition are now eligible for health insurance.
Starting Jan. 1 the same protection applies to adults.
“No one will be denied coverage or health insurance due to a pre-existing condition,” Cazares said. “That’s the law.”
The director of outreach said those with pre-existing conditions come from vulnerable populations and are usually low income people.
She said people with pre-existing conditions were the ones most likely to be dropped by a health provider, and have higher cost of care out of pocket because they are uninsured.
She also said those individuals accumulate medical bills that they will never be able to pay back.
All that changes with the Affordable Care Act or what is commonly referred to as Obamacare.
Cazares said the new law falls short of universal healthcare.
“Unfortunately this law, as it is right now, is not going to be able to achieve universal health care because there are still a lot of people who will not be eligible, and still not be able to afford health insurance.” she said. “Because this is opening up a new private insurance marketplace it is not necessarily provided by the government, so in that sense it is not meant to be universal care coverage.”
If a person already is medically covered through their employer or already has their own health coverage, then the law doesn’t affect them in the sense that they don’t have to do anything.
Everyone who is eligible for coverage has until Jan. 1 to get health insurance, if not the federal government will impose fines on those who don’t have coverage.
Enrollment for expanded Medi-Cal or Cover California plans started Oct. 1 with the enrollment period going through March 31, 2014. People who enroll before Dec. 31 will have coverage effective Jan. 1
Cazares said the misconception of the law is the cost.
“The biggest misunderstanding is that this is going to cost individuals and families more than before,” she said.