Oxfam Looks at the ACA

On Thursday, November 12, Oxfam and the Upstate Institute hosted an event called “Healthcare for All? A Community Health Brown Bag” in 207 Lathrop Hall. The brown bag focused on access to health care, particularly in Central New York.

The brown bag [featured a panel of speakers that included senior Jennifer Dias and staff members from the Neighborhood Center, the Madison County Office for Aging and American College of Rheumatology (ACR) Health.

Healthcare access is currently a hot topic around the country, especially as the debate around the Affordable Care Act – also known as Obamacare – remains at the forefront of national political discourse. The panelists discussed how a lack of insurance is a serious problem that affects millions of Americans from every socioeconomic, racial and ethnic group and every geographic area. Rising healthcare costs and costs of living have resulted in a “working poor,” consisting of those who have Medicare and are not below the poverty line, but lack specific benefits. For example, one may have medical insurance but may lack access to dental or vision insurance.

Furthermore, there are socioeconomic barriers and language barriers that prevent many people who have long-term conditions, such as cancer and diabetes, from obtaining low cost and affordable health insurance. Historically, rural areas have lacked access to healthcare. For example, the panelists spoke about how there is only one dentist in Chenango County that accepts Medicare.

“The Greater Upstate regions, specifically in Madison and Chenango County, face many challenges in accessing healthcare. The pervasive economic disparity coupled with the barriers presented by a rural setting are such that there is an overwhelming lack of medical, dental and vision providers [in] the area, as well as a higher need for affordable insurance coverage among individuals with need. The area also faces many problems with drug addiction and lack of reliable transportation, which also contribute to the overall health of the surrounding community,” Dias said.

The Affordable Care Act has addressed many inequities; however, a lack of health providers is a problem that remains. The panelists discussed how there is still too much power concentrated in just a handful of insurance companies, and this is problematic because people are funneled under the control of just a few major insurance companies. Furthermore, the speakers talked about how the Affordable Care Act has not addressed uninsured cost rates. This is especially significant because doctors are not always familiar with the intricacies of Medicare and Medicaid. In the United States, doctors are considered elite, and many people overlook the fact that doctors are often self-employed and have to pay for their own staff, buildings and other amenities. According to the panelists, while the Affordable Care Act has increased the Medicare reimbursement rate, Medicaid still reimburses payments to doctors very poorly.