Countywide discussion about how the widely anticipated Affordable Care Act (also referred to as "Obama Care") will impact Madera County is underway. The Affordable Care Act is an unprecedented mandate uniquely designed to extend access to affordable, quality health care to millions of additional Americans regardless of age, income, or pre-existing condition. Further, it is anticipated to help shift our health care system to one that prioritizes prevention.
Though passed almost two years ago, the environment for full implementation is finally here.
First 5 Madera County, the Madera County Public Health Department and Darin M. Camarena Health Centers share a common purpose in advocating for improved healthcare access in Madera County and partnered to seek funding from the California Endowment to support this effort. A core part of this grant is fostering an environment for the community to learn, understand and act on the opportunities and regulations inherent in the act.
Two recent symposiums have been held in Madera County with more than 100 attendees including physicians, public service staff, educators, business owners and community members.
"Attendees were informed of some of the general principles of the act," said Chinayera Black-Hardaman, executive director of First 5 Madera County. "For example, a 'sliding scale' health insurance subsidy will now be provided based on income for individuals and families earning between 138 and 400% of the federal poverty level. This means that a family of four earning up to $93,700 will now be eligible under provisions of the act through the new Covered California health care system."
The symposiums also touched on the implications of the act for business owners. Small business owners with less than 25 employees, less than $50,000 annual average earnings and who pay 50% or more of employees health premiums are eligible for tax credits.
Along with the opportunities of the act, come the complexities of understanding the finer details of implementation.
"The act is dynamic in that this single mandate has vastly different implications for various cross-sections of the community." Black-Hardaman said. "Moreover, though equally important, the employer/small business, the health care provider and the consumer each have an exclusive role in the overall mandate. Given this, we look forward to following up these initial symposiums with more focused act forums designed to bring distinct threads of the community together around the following topics:"
1. Behavioral health benefits under the act.
2. Local access to health care providers under the act.
3. Enrollment strategies for MediCal expansion and Covered CA.
4. Accessing covered prevention services: information for both consumers and providers.
5. Immigration reform and the act.
"Partners in this information sharing look forward to seizing the opportunity for learning and developing multi-sectoral partnerships," Black-Hardaman said. " The goal of these symposiums is to create a more informed community that can have better ongoing discussions about how Madera County will move forward together relating to the act."
First 5 Madera County is committed to improving the lives of children and families in Madera County. For information on how you can learn more about the upcoming forums, call First 5 Madera County at (559) 661-5155.