Chairman’s Briefing: It’s a good day when our region has access to quality, affordable healthcare

December 11, 2015

Oftentimes we long for the “good ole days,” and while there are things for which I am nostalgic, I do not miss the days when people in our region did not have access to quality, affordable health insurance.

Gone are the days when you have to take any job you can find “just for the insurance.” Gone are the days when small business owners and entrepreneurs have to pray they or their families don’t have any health issues or accidents for fear of a trip to the emergency room. The Affordable Care Act has made running your small business, moving your company’s manufacturing operations, and protecting your family while pursuing your dreams not only possible but a smart move.

Since the Affordable Care Act has taken affect, more than 17.6 million uninsured Americans have obtained health insurance through federal and state marketplaces. The uninsured rate in this country has dropped by 45 percent and, for the first time ever, more than 90 percent of Americans have affordable health insurance. Some people think the ACA is a program for those in most need or of a particular demographic. However, the healthcare.gov marketplace, where you can buy health coverage, is open to everyone. In fact, studies by the Kaiser Family Foundation have shown that “there are no strong patterns in enrollment by the income, educational attainment, or race/ethnicity of the regions.”[1] People from all walks of life are getting covered.

However, in spite of this progress a lack of health insurance continues to plague Delta communities and families. Even though millions of people are getting covered, studies and reports such as the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Health Coverage and Care in the South in 2014 and Beyond[2] show that Southerners and those living in the Delta region are less likely to have private coverage and more likely to be uninsured compared to people in other parts of the country. This is not acceptable.

With the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, health insurance has become more affordable for millions of Americans. And more than 70 percent of people purchasing health insurance through the Marketplace are paying less than $75 a month for quality health insurance after tax credits and subsidies.

Having a place to buy quality, affordable health coverage allows people to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams while being protected against debilitating health care costs. It also allows small business owners to sleep better knowing that they have insurance against accidents or health issues that would otherwise leave them with crippling debt and possibly needing to close their business.

When our workers and families have access to quality, affordable health care and coverage, our region will prosper. Healthy employees miss less work and are more productive when they are at work. Healthy students do better in school.

Having health insurance means you have access to preventive care that may keep you and your loved ones out of the emergency room, which is much more expensive and much less effective as a means to treat non-emergencies. This also reduces the crowds at our overworked, underfunded, and often-disappearing hospitals and health centers throughout the Delta region. Taking advantage of preventive measures available with health insurance as well as seeing a doctor regularly will ultimately lead to better health, higher productivity for employees and students, and more efficient use of our local health centers.

So, yes, while days before cell phones were less stressful and sometimes more attractive, I wouldn’t trade the health and well being of our region’s people for a time before the Affordable Care Act. Open enrollment to get health coverage for 2016 is now open at healthcare.gov until January 31, but sign up by December 15 to have coverage as we start the new year. I encourage everyone in the Delta region without health insurance to find out what their options in the Marketplace are and get yourself, your workers, and your families covered. I look forward to all of the good days ahead when all Americans can access quality, affordable health care.

Chris Masingill
Federal Co-Chairman
Delta Regional Authority

Sources:
[1] http://kff.org/interactive/mapping-marketplace-enrollment/- Kaiser Institute

[2] http://kff.org/report-section/health-coverage-and-care-in-the-south-in-2014-and-beyond-health-coverage-and-care-in-the-south-today/