Impact of health care ruling on Columbia's uninsured still uncertain

Thursday, June 28, 2012 | 6:49 p.m. CDT; updated 6:57 p.m. CDT, Thursday, June 28, 2012

COLUMBIA — The U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on Thursday regarding the Affordable Care Act will have a big impact on uninsured residents and give them more affordable options for health care, according to the CEO of the Family Health Center in Columbia.

Gloria Crull said about 25 percent of the patients the clinic sees each year are uninsured. She said that the center supports the Affordable Care Act and that she believes more people would if its benefits were explained more clearly.

"It allows them to access health care services of all kinds more efficiently," Crull said.

The Family Health Center is a federally qualified health center that focuses on patients who are medically underserved. It is financed in part by a $1.8 million federal grant that subsidizes the discounted services it provides for patients who lack insurance. Crull said the grant isn't large enough to cover all the people who are uninsured.

"There are lots of people that are uninsured for lots of reasons," Crull said. 

A majority of the patients the Family Health Center sees have full-time jobs but choose not to have insurance because it's too expensive. Some work for smaller employers that are less likely to provide their employees with health insurance benefits due to the cost, she said.

Crull said that with the new bill, more uninsured Columbia residents will be able to attain coverage, but they will have to pay a premium. The amount of those premiums will depend largely on the companies they buy insurance from.

As for Medicaid patients, Crull said that any required premiums will be more affordable than before. The court's ruling on Thursday said a provision of the Affordable Care Act that would provide funding to states expanding their Medicaid programs is constitutional. The ruling, however, also allows states that don't want the new federal money to opt out of that provision without facing the loss of federal Medicaid funding.

Many broad changes will be made in the health care system, but Rebecca Roesslet, social service supervisor at the Columbia/Boone County Department of Public Health and Human Services, said it is too early to really know how the bill will affect uninsured Columbians.

“At this point we don’t have enough information to see how this will affect Missourians,” Roesslet said. “We just really don’t know how it will look like.”

Crulls said The Family Health Center anticipates an increase in visits by underserved medical patients and those with pre-existing conditions who were unable to get proper care before. 

"We think we'll get a higher level of demand because they know we've had experience in serving people in that situation," Crull said. 

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