Last Thursday (Oct. 21) at the Theatre in Washington, Rappahannock citizens heard the lowdown on new health-care realities from a physician who has read the entire health reform act, some 2,000 pages.
Dr. Chris Lillis, a Fredericksburg family practice physician, stood before a small audience and reviewed the mechanics and effects of what is officially known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
Lillis explained that the measures in the new law, taken together, has been projected to save $524 billion over 10 years. The Medicare savings alone, he reported, are pegged at $127 billion and the federal deficit will be reduced by $1.2 trillion over the next 20 years.
Lillis said that for those paying for their own insurance, most will pay 59 percent less than they do now. He said that insurance premiums for lower-income citizens will be reduced because there will be a health insurance exchange, as well as tax credits. Some 32 million more Americans not now covered by health insurance are eligible for coverage through an “insurance pool.” As with mandatory car insurance, spreading the risk among more people is aimed at reducing premiums overall.
A woman in the audience spoke about how her health insurance premium recently rose from $400 to $800 per month, producing audible gasps and knowing nods from others in the theater. Lillis said her premiums should drop into the low hundreds under the new law.
The doctor said Medicare recipients with prescription expenses are each due a check for $250 this year — the first step in closing what is known as “the doughut hole” gap in Medicare part D coverage that often forces older folks to choose between their prescription medicines and basic living expenses. He said there are no cuts in Medicare benefits. The new law provides for a no-cost medical checkup for seniors once a year and most preventive services will require no co-pay.
Lillis stressed that preventative medicine will be a focus in order to catch problems before they escalate into serious, more cost-intensive problems.
Medicaid recipients will benefit from the bill as well, he said, as the reimbursement by Medicaid will rise to amounts closer to Medicare.
Lillis, a member of Doctors For America, a nonprofit organization of more than 200 physicians and medical students who have dedicated time to explain the new health-care law to Americans. He came to Rappahannock on his own time and at his own expense.
Earlier in the week, Lillis said his wife had given birth to their son, “TJ,” the couple’s first child. He had not had a lot of sleep, but pressed on because of what he sees as the urgency in presenting information about the law in a nonpartisan manner.
He spoke for two hours, then answered questions at the podium. Near the end of the question period, a woman in the audience raised her hand and told Lillis: “I came here with an Obama chip on my shoulder, but I believe what you say [about the health-care law] and you have changed my mind.”
Lillis thanked her for her story but reminded the audience that he’s not advocating for any politician or political party.
He said that the reform measure, which will be implemented gradually to assure there are no disruptions, is a good start in protecting patients and giving them the affordable and assessable health care they need.
“We’re taking a large step in the right direction,” he said.
For more information about what the law will do, Lillis suggested checking the Web site of Doctors for America , the Henry J. Keiser Family Foundation, the American Association of Retired Personsor the American Medical Association.