Uninsured face decisions as health care reform deadline nears

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by Lucy Bustamante, 13News

WVEC.com

Posted on July 15, 2013 at 6:30 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jul 16 at 3:58 PM

VIRGINIA BEACH-The Affordable Care Act will go into effect January 2014.  It was signed into law by President Barack Obama on March 23, 2010 to widen health coverage to cover millions of currently uninsured Americans.

Enrollment starts October 1. Until then, you’ll find many people, like Veronica Spencer, at the Beach Free Health Clinic. She calls it her health care home.

"Anything that comes up, you make an appointment," she says.

Under Obamacare, Spencer’s options for health care will expand, but they won’t include the Beach clinic. Because it’s a non-profit, it can't accept patients with insurance.

"I tried a lot of different ones and I finally have a combination that does well for me," she notes.

Even with insurance, Spencer may have a hard time finding a doctor.  There’s a shortage of primary care physicians in Virginia, according to study that analyzed the American Medical Association Physician Master File.

That’s a big concern for a Dr. Raymond Troianio, a volunteer doctor at the clinic. He's a retired neurologist and former president of Virginia Beach General Hospital.

"I worry that they're going to get caught in the middle of not being able to come here and not having enough providers to be able to see them," he says.

In Chesapeake, the free clinic has served the uninsured for nearly 21 years.  It may become a hybrid clinic once Virginia adopts some form of expanded Medicaid.   For now, it will continue to see patients who don't have insurance and continue to fill gaps in care, where ever they occur.

Cathy Revell runs the clinic in Chesapeake.

"We're very worried that we're not going to have enough Medicaid providers. Many of our doctors within our own clinic want to volunteer. They're retired. They don't want to get paid because it would mean filing taxes and dealing with Medicaid," she states.

At Eastern Virginia Medical School’s student-run Hopes Clinic, Director Dr. Terri Babineau, who supports the intention of health care reform, says it will be must for free clinics to stay well funded. She cites a Harvard study on how the State of Massachusetts handled the transition to free clinics.

"The study shows it would be a minimum of 10 years before all of the patients who were newly insured were not needing free clinic services just because there was just going to be difficulty in all of those patients getting access to a primary care physician,” Babineau notes.

Looking ahead, Spencer says she’s decided to pay a penalty fee of $95, or 1% of your income, for not purchasing insurance for the first year. She says it’s worth it because the doctors at Beach Free Health Clinic know her conditions and what medications work for her.

On Tuesday, 13News Now investigates the impact of health care reform on small businesses that will having to carry insurance.

On Wednesday, we’ll look at how hospital care may change.

 

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