Aside from the pejorative critics of the surreal media-driven political theater that resulted from the recent passage of the health care reform bill in partisan Washington, many Americans are still asking what effect the bill will have on them.
More specifically, what do the provisions in the nearly 2,000-page bill do for those most in need in South Florida?
According to a 2009 U.S. Census Bureau report, nearly 31 percent of Miami-Dade County’s residents are uninsured, placing the county among the worst in the nation. Additionally, the Jackson Health System is in dire financial straits and on the brink of bankruptcy.
Because the bill bans insurance companies from refusing coverage to someone due to a pre-existing condition, it will significantly affect those who are not yet old enough to qualify for Medicare and unable to afford unjustified sky-rocketing costs from big insurance. The new pool of citizens in South Florida able to purchase health insurance will dramatically increase, causing increased competition amongst insurance providers and, consequently, leading to lower premiums for everyone.
The bill will also subsidize private coverage for those in a low and middle-income bracket and will require employers to offer coverage to their employees or pay a penalty. These provisions will most directly affect thousands of South Floridians who fall into this income bracket or who own or work for small businesses. The new legislation could lead to nearly all of this group receiving full coverage- a stunning difference from the status quo.
Most controversially, the bill requires all citizens to have some sort of health insurance or pay a fine. This is the only direct government mandate for non-business owning citizens in the bill, but it could be the most significant element to the entire document.
Currently, under law, doctors and hospitals are required to treat anyone who is sent to the emergency room requiring immediate care. Those who are uninsured, however, usually receive their bill shortly after and are often discharged earlier than recommended because of the financial burden they present to the hospital and the taxpayer. This new provision will guarantee that hospitals receive payment and that patients will receive the treatment they deserve.
Many would agree that the bill presents a marked improvement for South Florida’s overcrowded and understaffed health care system. It will transform the system and would be more fair and just to all of its citizens. The verdict is still out as to how the bill could re-shape the future of health care in the region, but for now, it is the best alternative the nation has seen in generations.
Daniel Medina is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism and political science. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.