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Looking At Local Obamacare Impacts

House Republicans have recently rolled out their much anticipated proposal to change the Affordable Care Act. At this point, it’s unclear if it’ll pass.  

To understand the potential impact of the proposal on Nevadans, Reno Public Radio’s Anh has been talking with people in the community to see how Obamacare has already been affecting health care providers and local businesses. News Director Michelle Billman sits down with Gray to learn what people have been saying.

Michelle Billman: You’ve been talking people who’ve been watching this issue closely. What have you been hearing?

Anh Gray:  Nevada was one of the states that opted into the ACA Medicaid expansion several years ago, and because of that more Nevadans became eligible for Medicaid. Between that and the state health insurance exchange, about 400,000 people now have access to health insurance that didn’t’ have it before. Nevada health policy expert John Packham says a majority of those people are from urban areas, but it’s helping people in rural communities as well.

Nevada Health Policy Expert John Packham

MB: What about the patients who use community health centers? What are providers there seeing?

AG: Recently, I took a tour of Community Health Alliance on Wells Avenue in Reno. They are one of just a few Federally Qualified Health Centers, or FQHCs. Essentially these centers are set up to provide health care to individuals in the community regardless of their ability to pay. They operate on a sliding scale. I spoke to Medical Director Dr. Eithne Barton. Her primary role is to provide clinical care to patients. She had this to say about the ACA’s impact on her work at the center.

Community Health Alliance Medical Director Dr. Eithne Barton

MB: Along with those benefits, you’re also hearing from the business community. What’s going on there?

AG:  Since the start of 2015, businesses with 50 or more full time employees were required to provide health coverage to full-time employees or else they had to pay a tax penalty. Critics of this policy said that it could be costly for businesses and some could potentially shutdown. I chatted with Tray Abney from The Chamber of Commerce for Reno, Sparks and Northern Nevadaand this is what he had to say.

The Chamber of Commerce for Reno, Sparks and Northern Nevada Director of Government Relations Tray Abney

AG: Tray Abney went on to say that this climate of uncertainty has been difficult.

The Chamber of Commerce for Reno, Sparks and Northern Nevada Director of Government Relations Tray Abney

AG: That sentiment about operating under a cloud uncertainly was echoed by nearly everyone I spoke to regardless of what they thought about the ACA. Even though the long-awaited GOP proposal is on the table right now, there’s still an on-going battle on both sides. On a state level, one key area of the new proposal is the cap on federal contributions to states for Medicaid and instead implement a per-capita model for states. This would leave states to decide how to spend the money. Michelle, we’ll be hearing more of what this will look like in the coming days and weeks.

Michelle Billman is a former news director at KUNR Public Radio.
Anh Gray is a former contributing editor at KUNR Public Radio.
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