With the passage of the Health Care Reform Bill, millions of Americans without health insurance will now have coverage. Since nearly 94 percent of the country's uninsured population will have health insurance, many will make a visit to a physician's office. With a current shortage of physicians, the demand will be greater since the health care bill.
Putnam County Hospital receives $1 million from Disproportionate Share Hospital each year. The DSH money offsets what the hospital spends on patients without insurance and the difference from Medicaid patients.
Under the new bill, hospitals across the nation including PCH will be giving up their DSH money in hopes the newly insured Americans will visit their hospital.
"Our greatest concern is not enough of the money will be made up through insurance payments," PCH CEO Dennis Weatherford said.
Across the nation, $150 billion of DSH payments have been "contributed" by hospitals to the health care bill, Weatherford explained.
The most dramatic changes to come out of the health care reform will not be implemented until 2014, when most people will be required to obtain health insurance coverage or pay a fine if they don't; and employers with 50 or more workers, who do not offer coverage, face a fine of $2,000 for each employee; and health insurance companies will begin paying a fee based on their market share.
"I'm thrilled," said Ruth Ralph, executive director of Johnson Nichols Health Clinic in Greencastle, said.
Johnson Nichols provides comprehensive medical care for children ages 0-24. Care is free for those whose families are at 100 percent of the poverty level; those above that level are charges according to a sliding scale. The clinic also provides immunizations, free pregnancy testing and prenatal and family planning programs.
Ralph's concern is that when so many people become insured as the result of the bill, there won't be enough physicians to provide care.
"In the long term, there may not be enough family practitioners," she said. "But who knows? Maybe by 2014 something miraculous will happen and we'll have more of them."
Ralph pointed out that the bill provides for an increase for the rates of family practitioners.
"The problem is, when people get out of medical school they have this huge debt," she said. "They're almost forced to specialize to recoup some of that."
In the final analysis, however, Ralph believes the bill will produce savings.
"We do have healthcare available here in America, but it's the most expensive kind ... it tends to happen in emergency rooms," she said. "When everyone is covered, it's going to lower the overall cost of healthcare, because people will seek preventative care before they end up having to go to the hospital."
Upon passage of the bill, insurance companies were barred from dropping people from coverage should they become sick, excluding pre-existing conditions; young people will be allowed to remain on parents' health plans until the age of 26; and a 10 percent tax on indoor tanning services that use ultraviolet lamps goes into effect July 1.
"Our mission is to have enough resources to provide health care for everyone," said Weatherford.
Therese Cunningham with Cunningham State Farm Insurance doesn't see a big impact from the changes in healthcare.
"Because we are a business with fewer than 50 employees the new healthcare bill doesn't impact us yet," she told the Banner Graphic.
"Ultimately it should held reduce insurance premiums as a whole," she said. "There are some tax incentives included for small businesses but we'll have to wait and see how that goes. It's just too soon to know."
Cunningham does employ several people but does not offer health insurance as most of her staff use spousal insurance policies.
"I'm optimistic that it will work out and allow for more small business start-ups. Hopefully, this is the change we need and if it's not, I'll be the first to go after a change," said Cunningham.
The effect on non-profit organizations may not be immediate either but they are facing other obstacles with funding issues.
David English, Director of the Putnam County United Way does not see an effect on his organization because it is a one-man operation that does not offer health insurance benefits.
Where he sees a possible impact is in the organizations the United Way Supports such as Johnson Nichols Health Clinic and the Putnam County Family Services programs.
"I worry about these programs that are already facing funding issues and that will be indirectly impacted by changes in health care," said English.