Health care laws providing more access for Mesa residents - East Valley Tribune: Mesa

Health care laws providing more access for Mesa residents

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Posted: Saturday, August 23, 2014 6:00 am

Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act and Arizona’s expansion of Medicaid, health care may be more available to residents in Mesa and the rest of the East Valley than it ever has before.

Since January, nearly 300,000 people across Arizona have signed up for the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS). More than 120,000 Arizona residents signed up through the marketplace during the enrollment period.

While these numbers are tougher to parse out to the city and county levels, it does mean a lot more people have access to affordable health care.

“As a result of the growth in AHCCCS and marketplace coverage, health care systems across the state, including Banner Health, are seeing a decrease in uncompensated care,” said Corey Schubert, public relations specialist for Banner Health, in an email.

That doesn’t mean that everything is coming up roses for everyone. Dr. Brent Nelson, area medical director for NextCare, says some have traded a lack of coverage for other deficits.

“Anecdotally, it does appear that we see more uninsured patients now than we have in the past, but we are also seeing some of those uninsured people transition onto plans,” said Nelson. “What we also notice is that many people have a much higher deductible, so a lot of the visit charges are out-of-pocket expenses for the patients.”

This could mean that insurance is more attainable but covers less, leaving residents still paying out of pocket for many services.

“With the ACA passage, I think slightly more people may have insurance, but again, with the higher deductibles, I am not sure how much more access that allows for urgent care and primary care visits,” Nelson said.

While the ACA may have a limited scope in terms of usefulness, Nelson said Arizona’s efforts have done much more.

“We have definitely seen more accessibility with the expansion of Medicaid,” he said. “This has allowed families to bring in their children, and also has allowed for visits when the illness can be treated successfully without becoming serious, or requiring hospitalization or specialist care.”

State legislators voted to expand Arizona’s Medicaid program in 2013, with Gov. Jan Brewer, who pushed for the expansion, signing it into law on June 17 of that year. The bill expanded Medicaid coverage to 300,000 people and covers people earning between 100 and 138 percent of the federal poverty level.

East Valley legislators Jeff Dial, Bob Robson, Bob Worsley and Rich Crandall were among the 14 Republicans in the state House and Senate to sign the bill.

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