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"Understanding 'Obamacare'" is a series of occasional stories examining how the Affordable Care Act — widely called Obamacare first by critics and now also by some supporters — will change how you access and pay for health care. The series will look at the impact the new law has on individuals, businesses and health care providers in Southwest Virginia.
MONTEREY — Ann Foster’s allergies have taken her over many a mountain in search of a cure. Foster lives in rural Highland County, where there is no hospital, no practicing physician, not even a pharmacy. To see a pulmonary specialist, Foster recently had to drive to Harrisonburg, a three-hour round trip on winding country roads. “It shoots a day by the time you travel over the mountains,” Foster said. Highland County is part of the most medically underserved region in Virginia — and the worst-case example of what could be a looming statewide crunch: With newfound health insurance required by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, more patients by the thousands will soon be seeking treatment from an already strained system. Demand for primary care physicians is expected to increase at a time when there’s already a shortage of doctors in that field, both nationally and in Virginia. Longer waits to see a doctor — assuming one can be found — could be in store. “Just the magnitude of the situation is getting people’s attention,” said Mike Jurgensen, senior vice president of the Medical Society of Virginia.
As a steady rain sets in on Roanoke's Pride in the Park festival, Robin Davis hunkers under a tent and prepares for the work ahead. Davis takes brochures about health insurance and the Affordable Care Act from a cardboard box. She places them in giveaway plastic cups and arranges them on a table, bouquets of information to catch the eyes of passers-by. Soon enough, a woman attending the gay pride festival stops to talk.
In two words, Rob Lawson of Roanoke County can sum up the most recent controversy surrounding the Affordable Care Act: "That's me." Last month, Lawson received a letter from his insurance company, informing him that his plan was being cancel ed to meet the requirements of the new health care law. Such cancellations have been a hot topic on Capitol Hill this week, as some lawmakers have grilled Obama administration
First thing on the morning of Oct. 1, Candice Verwey logged on to her computer to shop for health insurance from her dining room table. That was how it was supposed to work under the Affordable Care Act: Go to healthcare.gov, enter your personal information, see if you qualify for a government subsidy and then select a plan that meets your budget and health needs. Ten days later, Verwey was
A key part of the Affordable Care Act is set to go live on Tuesday, with the possibility of some glitches and bumps along the way. In all 50 states, people with low to moderate incomes will be able to shop online for affordable health insurance. Assuming the program works as planned, they will log on to what are being called marketplaces, which will be run by either their own
Should Medicaid be expanded in Virginia? That’s been a question for a legislative committee since June. Now, the Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission is inviting public comment on the question, which could be decided by the end of the year. More than 300 people have so far submitted their written opinions to the commission’s website. The panel has also scheduled a public hearing for 1 p.m. Oct. 15 in the General
In a study that found great disparity in health care for the poor based on where they live — to the point of there being “two Americas” — Virginia scores somewhere in the middle. Virginia ranked 30th of the 50 states and the District of Columbia in a report released today by The Commonwealth Fund, a private foundation supporting independent research on health policy. Access to affordable health care and
Fresh out of college, Paula Wallace soon encountered a real education in the mixed-up world of poverty, health care and insurance. Working for a Roanoke nonprofit, Wallace was helping an uninsured, low-income family when it was hit by medical bills as unforeseen as they were huge. "I don't know what I'm going to do," she recalls one of the parents repeating. "I don't know what I'm going to do. I
RICHMOND — Virginia is making progress in an effort to reform — and then possibly expand — its Medicaid program, the leader of a legislative panel overseeing the process said Monday. “I would say that we’re a little over halfway there,” said Sen. Emmett Hanger, R-Augusta County, chairman of the Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission, which under the new federal health care law is mulling an expansion of the government
Legal aid offices in Roanoke and Christiansburg will soon be helping people sign up for subsidized insurance under the new federal health care law. Legal Aid Society Roanoke Valley and Southwest Virginia Legal Aid Society will each be able to hire a outreach coordinator with grant money announced Thursday. A total of $1.3 million in so-called Navigator grants was awarded to the Virginia Poverty Law Center, which will be working
Nine hospitals in a region that stretches from Bedford to Tazewell will see their Medicare reimbursements cut this year for having too many patient readmissions. The penalties, part of the new federal health care law, are aimed at prodding hospitals nationwide to do a better job of making sure that patients admitted with heart problems and pneumonia don’t wind up back in the hospital too quickly. Starting in October, hospitals
RICHMOND — Only one state will spend less per capita than Virginia to promote public awareness of the new health care reform law. According to data compiled by The Associated Press from federal and state sources, the $3.9 million in outreach spending in Virginia amounts to 49 cents per resident. Only Wisconsin, at 46 cents, is spending less per capita. States that resisted President Barack Obama’s health overhaul generally are
RICHMOND — For that rare bird in the health care world — a high income, young and healthy man who bothers to buy health insurance — the Affordable Care Act is likely to mean a rate shock, health plans’ presentations to the State Corporation Commission suggest. Insurers who aim to offer coverage through the new health insurance exchanges sketched their proposals to the commission on Tuesday, even as the staff
With the insurance exchanges set to begin on Oct. 1, many pieces of the system still have to be designed and implemented. Over the course of five years, Charlene Humphrey’s kidney stone has grown to nearly the size of a walnut, demanding an operation she cannot afford. Humphrey makes $9.25 an hour working the front desk of a Christiansburg motel. While it’s not enough to pay for health insurance, Humphrey
A federal appeals court in Richmond rejected Liberty University's challenge to the Obamacare federal health care law Thursday, but it left a door open for the school to appeal its case to the U.S. Supreme Court. Although it was the third time courts have ruled against its claim, LU isn't giving up, said Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel, which is handling the university's challenge of the law. click here! "The next
A community health center in Roanoke is getting a federal grant to help spread the word about how low-income residents can find assistance through the new federal health care law. New Horizons Healthcare will receive $87,083, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Wednesday. The money is part of a national effort by the Obama administration to make health care more accessible through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. A
WASHINGTON — The sudden delay of a major part of President Barack Obama’s historic health care overhaul is raising questions about other potential problems lurking in the homestretch. The requirement that many employers provide coverage is just one part of a complex law. But its one-year postponement has taken administration allies and adversaries alike by surprise. White House officials said Wednesday that the delay was firm and won’t be extended
RICHMOND — Virginia is in a strong bargaining position to get the flexibility it wants if it opts to expand Medicaid, the government health insurance program for the poor and disabled, the state’s top health official said Monday. And the state already has made much progress reforming its Medicaid services on the lines that this year’s budget compromise on expansion calls for, said the chairman of the legislative panel that
Lois Casto takes home $1,260 a month from her job serving students at a Virginia Tech dining hall, hardly enough to feed her family of six. Unable to afford health insurance, she gets most of her care from a free clinic. But in some times of sickness, she says, “I’ll just ride it out.” She does not qualify for Medicaid. * * * In the small white frame house where
If Medicaid is expanded in Virginia, it will only be after major changes are made to what some call a cumbersome and inefficient system. “The federal mandates, regulations, taxes and spending create an expensive, top-down, bureaucratic system,” Gov. Bob McDonnell wrote in a March 5 letter to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. McDonnell made it clear that he does not support an expansion, and that the state
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