Health Care Reform: Charting A New Course

Health Care Reform: Charting A New Course

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March 23, 2010 Congress passed landmark health care reform that stands as one of the most important achievements since President Lyndon Johnson signed Medicare into law more than four decades ago. This first anniversary is provoking fresh debate over a law many Americans still remain confused about, even as its benefits are already taking effect.
On the anniversary of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act reform is charting a new course.


Because of the law, fewer patients will face dire circumstances.

Insurance companies can no longer deny coverage to children with preexisting conditions. This means a young girl with cancer or another serious illness can't be denied the care she needs.

The law prohibits health plans from placing lifetime caps on coverage.

Before reform, the practice resulted in seriously ill patients being cut off from necessary treatment.

In addition, new health plans must cover preventive services such as blood-pressure checkups and routine vaccinations without copayments.

This is an important victory; costly and life-threatening conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and other illnesses are often preventable, but research shows most of us avoid preventive care when it's not covered. Over the next several years, thousands of uninsured Americans will gain coverage.

Despite these improvements, reform faces ideological attacks from conservative lawmakers and Tea Party activists who claim that the law is an unaffordable government takeover of health care.

Even worse for both sides, a majority of Americans remain confused about what the law accomplishes.

A sizable number don’t even realize that it has been passed and signed.

Riverside psychiatrist and president of the J.W. Vines Medical Society, Richard Kotomori, M.D. says while public attitudes toward the law haven’t shifted much despite the best efforts of both political parties to praise it or bury it he worries about the long haul.

“The rollout is complex, and graduated - it’s just slow. I think people are taking small bites out of the elephant. There’s a risk that consumers, health providers and clinicians won’t realize the benefits in any significant way,” said Kotomori.

“One of the real sticking points with consumers is the cost of drugs which this law doesn’t address.

Drug costs are expensive and rising. The average consumer feels trapped. He has no negotiating rights with the pharmaceutical companies.

That will eventually sway public attitudes,” he said.

Kotomori says though public opinion has stayed relatively static, there’s no doubt that the conservative movement still senses a political opportunity.

“I think targeting the health care reform law remains a favorite sport.”

African-Americans are still suffering disproportionately with the problems of this country’s broken health care system. For example in 2009, 20 percent of Blacks did not have health insurance, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The number for Whites was 10.4 percent in 2007. What’s more 48 percent of African American adults suffer from chronic diseases, compared with 39 percent of the general population.

Going forward Kotomori says health care reform is still a noble endeavor.

“The Vines Medical Society has articulated that health insurance is the key component to reducing health disparities within minority communities.”

Simply put, he says “getting health insurance will be a big step forward for millions of African Americans.”