Monday, March 24, 2014

If It's Not Free--It's Not For Me

Back in January, we here at WOSH News attempted to do a story on the future of free and community health clinics in the Fox Valley following the full implementation of the Affordable Care Act.  With the requirement that all Americans purchase health insurance, it seemed that the need for such facilities would go away--as everyone would be able to access the "regular" clinics and doctors provided by Aurora, Agnesian, ThedaCare and Affinity.  We contacted five clinics in all--and only Agnesian out of Fond du Lac returned any of our calls.  Their spokeswoman would not go on the record and would only say that they planned to continue their "charity care" programs.  She would not answer any questions about why--if every patient coming in should now have health insurance.

You could probably assume that these clinics and programs need to tone down the promotion of their services, since those coming in without health insurance are technically breaking the law (although the Obama Administration has made no announcement on how they plan to actually track down those "offenders"--other than to say the IRS will handle it.)  And who knows, the President could just unilaterally decide to push back the individual mandate (again) past the November mid-term elections to help Democrats dealing with "ObamaCare" blowback.

Well this weekend, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal uncovered why the free clinics will remain open.  In their cleverly titled "Affordable Care Act's copays may become no-pays", the paper finds that even though many of the newly-enrolled will be getting federal subsidies and could pay as little as $8 a month for their coverage--they have no requirement to pay the deductibles and co-pays included in the plans.  John Bartkowski--who runs the 16th Street Health Center--flat out admits in the story "We will never collect that money". 

But Mr Bartkowski is not quite correct, you see that money will be collected eventually--from everyone else who buys health insurance and pays taxes.  And that is the same source of funding that existed before the Trillion-dollar ACA bureaucracy was put into place.  Note that many of the newly-insured are getting sizable federal subsidies to purchase their policies--and additional subsidies are in place to help with deductibles and co-pays as well.  I'll grant you that the money for that is just being printed and not really collected from taxpayers at this time--but eventually, there will be a need to back up all that spending with actual revenue--and those getting the subsidies and walking away from the deductibles and co-pays will not be the ones picking up the tab.

Those who represent the 6-million "newly enrolled" and the millions more that are now provided government health coverage through expanded Medicaid programs paid little to nothing for health care before and they will continue to pay little to nothing for it now.  So for whom did the Affordable Care Act make things "more affordable"?

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