What is St. Vincent doing to prepare for the kickoff?
Yes, we're providing information to both the public and to the people who enter our hospital and clinics as patients, caregivers or family members. For the public, we have planned four Enrollment Fairs at the Mansfield Education Center in Billings, two in October, one in November and one in December. We'll be letting people know the exact times in upcoming newspaper ads and posts on our website and on Facebook. At these Enrollment Fairs (link to Enrollment Fair schedule), people will learn about how the Health Exchange works in Montana, what their choices are, and we'll have internet access and trained staff on hand to walk people through the process and assist then in signing up for a plan, if they're ready for that. If they'd like to think it over, people will leave with the information to be able to finish enrolling in a plan on their own.
For patients and their families who enter the St. Vincent Healthcare hospital or clinics, we'll have trained Patient Financial Advocate/Certified Application Counselors who can understand how the Marketplace works, what the options are and how much they'll cost. We'll also have informational posters and brochures with the basic information and new kiosks at the hospital where people can actually get online and complete their enrollment while they are here.
What challenges does St. Vincent Healthcare face in educating and informing consumers in our community?
Seventy-five percent of the people who will be helped by the Affordable Care Act believe that the Act will do nothing for them, which creates a barrier to them seeking out the information that could help them. Also, fear of the unknown is a big factor for many people, but it's something we help people deal with every day in healthcare. The people we care for are often facing health issues they know nothing about. So, helping them understand – and reduce their fears – about a new health insurance plan is right up our alley.
It's especially difficult to educate people on the new processes when our government leaders have been unable to collectively agree on the best ways to effectively provide quality healthcare to Americans in need. But, it's our job to help people gain the knowledge they need to get the coverage they deserve. The majority of Americans are looking to their doctors and nurses as trusted resources for information about the new healthcare laws.
Why is it important for St. Vincent Healthcare for the Affordable Care Act to work?
The reason St. Vincent Healthcare is here is to improve the health of the people and communities we serve, especially those who are poor and vulnerable. The promise of providing healthcare coverage for people with lower incomes, who haven't had access to health coverage, is a huge milestone.
We plan to continue to advocate for Medicaid expansion in Montana, as the lack of it leaves a large portion of the uninsured without a viable healthcare insurance option. Cuts to our providers' Medicare reimbursements create a portion of the funds that are earmarked to pay for Medicare expansion. When the Montana legislature voted to not move forward with Medicaid expansion, we lost the ability to get those funds back through providing healthcare services to the low-income population.
Does the political climate around the Affordable Care Act affect how St. Vincent Healthcare implements the program?
We are prepared to enact the law of the land, whatever that might be. In the case of the ADA, we are highly energized and thankful that the new program will offer affordable healthcare coverage to millions of Americans who are not covered now. Each of us has individual political outlooks, but providing quality healthcare is our mission, and making it affordable for everyone is something we encourage. The care of our patients will win out over any political leanings every time.