Special Report: Obamacare (Part 2)

By Henni Espinosa, ABS-CBN North America Bureau 

September 27, 2013

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. – The chaotic week on Capitol Week ended with the senate voting on a bill that would restore funding for President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. This come just days after House Republicans voted to defund it for the 42nd time and threatened a government shutdown.

Filipino-American Democratic leader Genevieve Jopanda said lawmakers should not focus on politics over people’s interests.

“You’re taking advantage of the people that elected you, and that’s wrong. You’re elected to take care of those people,” she said.

Jopanda is also a health advocate, as the executive director of the San Francisco Hep B Free campaign. She said Obamacare should no longer be delayed, because it will directly benefit the immigrant community.

The Asian Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIA HF) pointed out a study by Rand that cited that there are currently 2.8 million Asian-Americans who have no health coverage. But by 2016, the report said that about two million Asian-American will become insured under Obamacare.

“They will be able to go to the doctor, get checked-up and see what these red flags are in their bodies and be able to take care of them early on,” Jopanda said.

The APIA HF said there are different ways Obamacare can benefit Asian-Americans. One way is through Medicaid expansion. The group said that starting next year, Medicaid will be expanded to cover eligible children and families with incomes at or below 133% of the federal poverty level. Nearly one in ten struggling Asian-Americans are expected to get Medicaid coverage under Obamacare.

Another benefit to the immigrant community — pre-existing condition insurance plan. Under the law, insurance companies cannot deny health coverage to people with pre-existing conditions like asthma, diabetes, hypertension or hepatitis B.

72-year old Alexandra Isulat is diabetic. She said it’s about time that everyone gets the care they need from insurance companies — regardless of their condition.

“As early as possible, we have to prevent diseases from coming to our bodies,” she stressed.

The APIA HF said that another benefit to Asian Americans is health insurance exchanges. Under the law, each state will create its own one-stop marketplace for people to purchase private insurance coverage. Starting next year individuals and families with incomes between 133% to 400% of the federal poverty level will get some help through tax credits and discounts. One in 10 Asian American families are expected to be eligible for subsidies from the government.

Dr. Carmelo Roco, who has served the Filipino-American community for more than two decades appreciates Obamacare and its benefits to Asian-Americans. But he hopes that small practices, like what he has, will survive when Obamacare goes into full effect.

Roco he expects reimbursements of payments will be even more delayed, as more and more patients become eligible for Medicare. He said, if this happens, he may not be able to keep up with the daily costs that come with his practice.

He said many private doctors will now have to work for hospitals and large medical groups to stay profitable.

Isulat, who has been a patient of Roco’s for ten years now, said she prefers seeing a Filipino doctor she knows, instead of being assigned a random one in hospitals and clinics.

“It will be hard for me to communicate if I’m not acquainted with the doctor and the language is something I can’t understand,” she said.

“That’s why all of us in private practice are trying to maintain where we are right now. We want to continue the relationship that we have with the community,” added Roco.

But for community leaders like Jopanda, the good outweighs the bad when it comes to Obamacare. She said the most important thing is more people in America, not just Filipinos and Asian Americans, are able to make healthcare a priority in their lives.

“It’s going to be scary because it’s new. People resist changes. But at the end of the day, I think it’s best for the country,” said.

The budget bill that could affect funding for Obamacare now returns to the House. If the two chambers cannot compromise on a final bill by midnight on Monday, then the government will shut down. But Filipino community leaders said lawmakers should settle their difference and think of the people when they make their decisions — especially on a very important issue such as healthcare.

For more information, you may contact Henni Espinosa at henni_espinosa@abs-cbn.com.

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