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Word on the Street

By Dr. Zaneb Beams

On Tuesday, October 19, the Washington Post featured a Health and Science story, evaluating criticisms of the Affordable Care Act. The article mentions that folks are worried about keeping their insurance, and finding doctors. The Post offers few concrete responses, and even I am starting to wonder if we have answers. I’m not sure I can offer assurances that everything will work out just fine.

Yesterday, I gave a presentation at the Glenwood Senior Center, describing the Affordable Care Act to a handful of elders. As I sat down to describe anticipated changes in health care, a white haired man with angry eyes inquired sharply “How do you KNOW preventive care will cost less?” I explained provisions eliminating copays and deductibles for qualified annual screening exams and wellness visits. “Well, If 4 million more people are gonna be getting health care, who’s gonna take care of ‘em? I can’t find a doctor that takes Medicare!” he spat. I explained ACA strategies like improved pay for primary care providers, decreased overpayment to insurers, and financial incentives to coordinate care in a medical home model. “I thought we were here to talk about Medicare!” he shouted, stomping his way out the door. After the talk, another elder approached and said “Well, I’m worried about the same things as that guy, but I think it sounds like we’ve got a good plan.”

Some people won’t be happy no matter how many facts we share. On the other hand, after my commentary to theChamber of Commerce on Healthy Howard, our health care safety net in Howard County, a middle-aged gentleman smiled shyly and said “I’m an entrepreneur, and I use Healthy Howard. I just had my first visit with our doctor and health coach. I thought it was pretty good.” After I thanked him he added “I would have had to give up my business if it weren’t for this program. Now, I’m living my dream.”

We live in a nation built by entrepreneurs. Security in the form of programs like Healthy Howard, and strategies encouraged in the ACA, foster innovation. Established, successful programs like Geisinger HealthKaiser, and the Mayo Clinic offered the basis for changes set forth in the ACA. The Washington Post did not offer black and white assurances of ACA’s success.  In my talk, I don’t share macroeconomic data or mathematical models predicting outcomes from changes in the ACA. But word on the street is, safety net programs like Healthy Howard, economic incentives to prevent illness, and buttressing innovation, are popular and successful strategies for healthy communities and healthy economies.

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