Good Life

Helping Hands | CVIM complements Affordable Care Act to bridge gap in health care

The first year of health coverage under America’s Affordable Care Act is nearing completion, so I thought I would update the community on how this law has affected Centre Volunteers in Medicine. We have implemented new services during the past year, include training CVIM personnel to assist clients in navigating their health coverage options under the ACA.

It is a popular misconception that free clinics will no longer be needed under the ACA. Many people are surprised to hear that an estimated 31 million people will be uninsured when the ACA is fully implemented in 2024, according to a February report from the Congressional Budget Office.

Historically, most Americans receive health insurance through their employers. The percentage of Americans who receive health insurance through employers has fallen significantly over the past decade — from 69.7 percent nationwide in 2000 to 59.5 percent in 2011, according to a report by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. This shift has led to an increase in people who are unable to afford private health insurance but earn too much to receive public medical assistance. The purpose of the ACA is to close this gap, and the purpose of CVIM is to assist people who remain in the gap.

One obvious challenge of the new law is to understand it; how to apply, who’s covered and how much this coverage might cost are all questions with complicated answers. To help clients manage this process, CVIM provided training for our staff and volunteers to serve as certified application counselors through the ACA Marketplace.

Last year, we helped 268 people through the enrollment process; unfortunately, only about 30 percent qualified for various forms of insurance. The remainder fell into the gap created when Pennsylvania did not expand medical assistance for those either earning too much to qualify for medical assistance or not enough to qualify for subsidies in the exchange.

You may have heard Pennsylvania recently elected to expand Medicaid coverage. This decision should help close the coverage gap for working poor, and we will continue to monitor the program as changes are implemented.

With the generous support of the Centre County United Way, we’ve increased dental services. Beginning in July, CVIM hired a part-time dentist and dental assistant and expanded our dental hygiene services. These expanded resources have allowed CVIM to chip away at the long waiting list for dental services, which remains at about 1,200 patients.

I’m happy to report the progress we have made and the progress the ACA has made reducing the number of uninsured neighbors in our community. It’s important to remember that a great need still exists for CVIM’s services, and we continue to rely on community support to underwrite our programs.