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Public policy forum addresses strain on health care safety net in the wake of the Affordable Care Act

The Affordable Care Act will reduce the number of uninsured in America by more than half. And while this is a great achievement, the newly insured are still going to face challenges when it comes to access to adequate health care, according to Wake Forest Law Professor Mark Hall.

As part of a public policy forum, “The Health Care Safety Net in a Post-Reform World,” held on Oct. 17 at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., Hall said that there is a lot of pent up demand for health care from the previously uninsured that will put “real strains on safety net providers.”

A video of Hall’s talk is available here. Access to his PowerPoint presentation can be found here.

The health policy, law and ethics forum focused on the book, “The Health Care Safety Net in a Post-Reform World (2012),” recently published by Rutgers University Press.

The forum included presentations by the book’s co-authors Hall and Sara Rosenbaum, George Washington University; as well as commentators Michael K. Gusmano, Hastings Center; Dayna Matthew, University of Colorado; Julia Paradise, Kaiser Family Foundation; and Anthony Shih, Commonwealth Fund. Wake Forest law school Dean Blake D. Morant made the introductions.

Rosenbaum’s PowerPoint presentation can be found here, while Matthew’s is here and Paradise’s is here.

“This public policy forum is a great opportunity to understand how health insurance reform, or its repeal, will affect the critical role of ‘safety net’ providers in providing access to care for uninsured or newly insured people,” Hall said.

Topics of discussion included:

  • Serving those who remain uninsured following reform;
  • Funding and capacity of community health centers and safety net hospitals;
  • How best to serve disadvantaged people who are newly insured;
  • And access to care by undocumented immigrants

Other forum co-sponsors were the Wake Forest University Center for Bioethics Health and Society; the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Investigator Awards in Health Policy Research.

According to Rutgers University Press, “The Health Care Safety Net in a Post-Reform World” examines how national health care reform will impact safety net programs that serve low-income and uninsured patients. The “safety net” refers to the collection of hospitals, clinics, and doctors who treat disadvantaged people, including those without insurance, regardless of their ability to pay. Despite comprehensive national health care reform, over twenty million people will remain uninsured. And many of those who obtain insurance from reform will continue to face shortages of providers in their communities willing or able to serve them. As the demand for care grows with expanded insurance, so will the pressure on an overstretched safety net.

This book, with contributions from leading health care scholars, is the first comprehensive assessment of the safety net in over a decade. Rather than view health insurance and the health care safety net as alternatives to each other, it examines their potential to be complementary aspects of a broader effort to achieve equity and quality in health care access. It also considers whether the safety net can be improved and strengthened to a level that can provide truly universal access, both through expanded insurance and the creation of a well-integrated and reasonably supported network of direct health care access for the uninsured.