GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM) -- Local health care experts will answer questions tonight about The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), including what it means for the state of Michigan and its residents.
Ever since the United States Supreme Court upheld the law, state lawmakers have been scrambling to meet certain deadlines, like setting up a health exchange. But, it seems many people are still confused on how exactly the health care change will change their lives.
"There are several things Michigan has to decide. The timeline is varied," said Carl VerBeek, an attorney with Varnum.
A panel of experts, including VerBeek, plan to shed some light on these issues during a community forum Tuesday evening. Among the topics will be what actions must state officials, employers, and health care providers take and when.
"One of the things Michigan has to decide is whether to accept the federal funds to pay for the short term additions to Medicaid population. The funds will be short term," said VerBeek. "In addition to the Medicaid decision, Michigan has to do decide whether or not to set up its own insurance exchange or sit back and wait for the federal government to do it without Michigan's participation. There are also some decisions about what to do with people who are both eligible for Medicare and Medicaid and how some of those people's benefits will be administered. There are also some lesser important things that have to be decided but those are the big three."
VerBeek, the moderator of the event, says the change will likely add an additional half a million people to Michigan's Medicaid population. He fears, among other things, there are not enough doctors to care for those patients.
"We do not have enough doctors for the current Medicaid population. I chair the local Kent Health Plan where we give people a card, the problem they have is getting access to a doctor. Even if they have the name of a primary care physician getting an appointment is not easy because the doctors are not paid adequately to take those patients. Doctors are subsidizing the current program. They simply are not going to be willing or able to subsidize another half a million," he said.
Other topics to be discussed at tonight's forum, include, how employers will react to the change and what workers should do if they are dropped from their employer insurance plans.
"Many employers are very worried. I believe many employers will in fact decide to drop their coverage and take their fine. Employers have been doing that with some regularity now for several months. I think a lot of employers are going to sit tight through November and see what happens with the elections. Both the presidential elections and congressional elections will have a profound impact on this particular statute. I think a lot of employers are going to wait and see what happens and then decide if they can't afford to provide coverage anymore and drop it and take the fine which has been defined as a tax," said VerBeek.
He says more employees will have to learn to buy health insurance. The good news, he says, is the health insurance market is growing.
The forum begins at 6:30pm on Tuesday, July 17 at Loosemore Auditorium, GVSU downtown campus. It is free and open to the public.