What New Health Care Laws Could Mean for Your Family
Neighborhood Health Center Director Len Stewart said about 40 percent of the center’s patients are uninsured
ANCHORAGE - The idea that everyone will need to have insurance coverage or pay a fine is prompting lots of debate, but people who work with lower income groups said it’s hard to find a downside for them.
At the Anchorage Neighborhood Health Center Jackie Johnson is getting seen by a provider. Johnson comes to the clinic not because she doesn’t have insurance, but because she has trouble affording the Medicare co-pay.
“It’s the 20 percent,” said Johnson. “But here they have a sliding fee scale which is nice.”
Johnson has a part time job, but still struggles with health care costs. So does 19-year-old Rozina Thompson, only Thompson has no health insurance at all.
“I work at Blockbuster. I live at home with my parents. I don't make too much money,“ said Thompson.
The health care laws will allow Thompson to stay on her parents' insurance up to age 26, but that’s assuming her parents have insurance. According to state figures, nearly 18 percent of Alaskans don’t and many end up at the Neighborhood Health Center.
Director Len Stewart said about 40 percent of the center’s patients are uninsured. He believes that requiring expanded coverage to lower and middle-income groups could have benefits for everyone.
“It’s going to let you come in more often and be in charge of wellness as opposed to waiting till you are critically ill to come in,” said Stewart. “Honestly that is going to lower over all systems costs to have more people well and out of hospital ER’s.”
In the meantime employers who don’t currently offer insurance may end up spending more of their own money to make it available. And there will be penalties starting in 2014 for those who do not purchase any.
One man who does have insurance said the medicine may be painful, but necessary.
“Not everyone’s going to like it, but in order for everybody to be covered somebody’s got to be put out of place.”