Stillwater News Press

Local News

October 11, 2012

Panelists provide clearer picture of Affordable Care Act

STILLWATER, Okla. — The Affordable Care Act is 906 pages long on the U.S. Government Printing Office website at gpo.org. The act has been at the center of heated debates, misunderstandings and a Supreme Court case.

Approximately 50 people attended Wednesday’s League of Women Voters forum about the Affordable Care Act.

The two speakers, Calvin Anthony and Buffy Heater, gave presentations on portions of the act.

Anthony, the owner of a Stillwater drug store, has been a pharmacist for more than 30 years and serves on the Stillwater Medical Center Board of Directors.

Heater is the director of planning and development for the Oklahoma Health Care Authority in Oklahoma City.

A scheduled third panelist, Kate Richey, a policy analyst for the Oklahoma Policy Institute, could not attend for personal reasons.

Kirsten Tautfest, president of the Stillwater chapter of the League of Women Voters, said she was pleased with the turnout and the questions asked of the panelists. She said she felt more informed after the forum.

“It gave me a clearer picture of the Medicaid issue and helped me understand the penalties for Oklahoma not following the law,” Tautfest said.

Heater said a state can chose to not participate in the act, but it would mean the loss of all federal financial participation.

Heater discussed seven major changes in the act. Medicaid interoperability with a health insurance exchange was her first point. She said this meant that Medicaid would cooperate with private insurance companies for people who are self-employed or for small businesses.

Another point she emphasized was that former foster-care children would qualify for Medicaid until age 26.

She said a deadline of Jan. 1, 2014, will require states to have exchange operatives for those at or below 133 percent of the federal poverty level.

Heater said approximately 200,000 Oklahomans would be newly qualified for Medicaid under the act.

She said there are now about 11,000  Oklahomans on Soonercare, which is a Medicaid program. Children under 18 make up approximately 8,000 of those, she said.

Anthony said an important part of the act is that it removes lifetime benefit caps on health care. He said this would help those who have chronic medical conditions, and keep insurance companies from cutting off coverage to people with expensive medical needs.

Anthony said a World Health Organization study showed the United States to be No. 1 in the world in medical spending per capita. The organization’s site at who.int, shows the U.S. to be No. 2 in obesity, just behind Samoa, where two-thirds of women and one-half of men are obese.

Anthony said the act is expected to cost $938 billion over 10 years, with 49 percent of the cost being covered by spending cuts and 51 percent covered by increased fees and taxes.

Both speakers addressed a part of the act that would require insurance companies to spend 80 percent of consumers’ premiums on providing health care instead of on administrative or advertising costs.

Anthony said the act has had “all kinds of horror stories” told about it, and it “has a lot of moving parts.” He said Social Security and Medicare were highly criticized when they were implemented.

“It’s not going to be fixed overnight,” Anthony said.

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