A study released this week showed the need is great for health coverage in the Northern San Joaquin Valley. More than 100,000 residents in Stanislaus, San Joaquin and Merced counties will be eligible for tax credits to help them get coverage through the state's health exchange, according to the Families USA report.
Unfortunately, the region also suffers from an acute shortage of physicians. A big question is how these folks will access care after they're required to obtain insurance. With most local hospitals reporting recent decline in admissions and elective procedures, it appears the system can absorb some of the newly insured. But somehow the health care infrastructure didn't get much attention in the Affordable Care Act, which makes sweeping changes in the way this nation does health care.
Of course, many people will welcome the chance to buy affordable coverage without restrictions, in order to protect themselves against crushing medical bills. Other Americans have expressed their outrage over the mandates. Certain realities may result in a gradual phase-in over the next couple of years. The uninsured are not a homogenized class and agencies will need to reach out to the valley's culturally diverse population to inform people about the requirements and benefits of health reform. Also, I suspect it'll be physically impossible for Covered California to enroll three million Californians in health plans before January, even it had call takers working around the clock.
If there was ever a government program that needed to take more time with execution, it may be this one.