Supervisors hear health care update

By Barry Eberling; The Daily Republic
From page A1 | March 27, 2013 |

FAIRFIELD — Solano County, local hospitals and local nonprofits are preparing their responses to the federal health care reform changes coming in January 2014.

California is complying with the federal Affordable Care Act by allowing more people to qualify for Medi-Cal and creating a state health insurance exchange designed to offer lower-cost insurance. That means more county residents will be eligible for free or subsidized coverage and more people could be using the local health care system.

Solano County supervisors at their Tuesday meeting heard an update on how federal health care changes could affect the county. Board Chairwoman Linda Seifert called the presenters a local “who’s who” of health care from the private, public and nonprofit sectors.

This update marked the second in two presentations that are acting as a sort of “Health Care 101” for the supervisors. The first took place Feb. 19. Seifert said the board simply wanted to become more educated about the Affordable Care Act.

The Solano Coalition for Better Health will lead a local public outreach effort. The nonprofit coalition plans to make presentations on the health care changes to small businesses groups, schools, service clubs and other organizations.

Meanwhile, it will remain involved in an evolving health care discussion.

“We need to make sure there’s access to care, that there’s plenty of capacity in the system to address everybody’s needs,” said Carl Thomas, executive director of the Solano Coalition for Better Health.

Michael Clearfield of Touro University California on Mare Island said the college’s medical school has medical students working with county clinics and other health care providers. It is graduating the physicians of the future.

“When we hear about the access problems, the answer is right here in the community,” Clearfield said.

Elnora Cameron of NorthBay Healthcare addressed the Covered California insurance exchange and how it might change the health care landscape in Solano County. An estimated 5 million Californians will be eligible for the insurance exchange, she said. But it’s uncertain if the exchange can keep its promise of lower prices.

“It’s no exaggeration to say, we really don’t know what’s going to happen,” she said.

Jack Horn of Partnership HealthPlan of California urged continued support for county-run health clinics. Not everybody is going to get private coverage through health care reform, he said.

Among the questions arising from the Affordable Care Act is how the county can continue to integrate mental health care and substance abuse treatment with primary care and how to find the money to do so, county officials said.

Small businesses with 50 or more employees will have to offer health care coverage or pay a fine under the health care reform law. Businesses with fewer than 50 employees will have the option of using the insurance exchange to get low-cost plans and will receive a tax credit of $2,000 per employee for providing coverage, a county report said.

The presentation ended with comments from the supervisors.

“The one take-away for me is the uncertainty of what we’re all facing,” Supervisor Jim Spering said.

Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or beberling@dailyrepublic.net. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.