Judy McGinnis: What me worry about health care?
We can read the headlines. Nationally, according to the Kaiser Foundation, about 64 percent of older Americans rely on Medicaid to cover nursing home care.
What is the percentage here in Routt County? If there are cuts in Medicaid funding, what happens to our neighbors in nursing homes here in Colorado? Will they be evicted? Will the state pick up the cost? How will that get funded?
If the elderly residents are no longer able to pay, will nursing homes be forced to close or will they be forced to raise prices so that only the wealthy will be able to afford them? What about the elderly who are only able to live independently because they have access to caregivers who come to them? Will they be forced to move out of their homes?
Yampa Valley Medical Center is our main hospital and provides care to those who are covered by Medicaid as well as those who are recently insured. Currently, that means that YVMC is getting funds through Medicaid. If Medicaid funding and insurance subsidies are reduced/eliminated, people who need urgent care will still be seen, but YVMC will lose the Medicaid and insurance revenues. Will those uninsured patients be able to pay for the care?
This may leave patients with crippling debts, and if those are uncollectable, YVMC will have to find other sources of funds in order to stay open. Will YVMC require subsidies from the city, county or state? Or will prices rise? Or will it, or other medical centers in less fortunate parts of the state, have to close? And that doesn’t even address the increased costs that the lack of preventative health care generates. Who pays that price?
We are told that insurance premiums have gone up because of the Affordable Care Act. It is impossible to know exactly what would have happened to insurance premiums without the ACA, perhaps they would have gone up more, perhaps less.
But, for elder citizens, it is clear that the proposed changes will mean dramatic increases. The proposal would permit insurers to charge those over 55 five times what they charge a 25-year-old. For employers who provide health benefits, and there are still some, it may be difficult to justify keeping older workers when they cost so much more in benefits than younger ones.
Then there is self-interest. Steamboat is a resort community. A lot of the economic activity here is driven by tourism. When projections show that some middle class families could see a rise in premiums by about $20,000 per year,will they need to economize somewhere else?
Unfortunately for us, a ski vacation is a pretty easy thing for that family to cut. Steamboat businesses rely a great deal on tourism and so do the city services funded by the sales tax dollars it generates.
Health care is a dollars and cents issue, but cutting funding for health care to cut taxes for the rich is dollars without any sense. Contact Senator Cory Gardner, who was on the 13-man team that drafted the new Senate bill, for his answers at 202-224-5941.
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