Dept. of Health Regional Dir.: ACA Has Improved Health Care Coverage

On this — it’s fifth anniversary — the Affordable Care Act has saved the nation’s hospitals billions of dollars in charity care. That from the federal Department of Health and Human Services, which credits Obamacare and the expansion of Medicaid for the cost savings. About 252,000 New Jersey residents have enrolled in government sponsored health care and 390,000 more are covered by Medicaid, a program Gov. Chris Christie plans to cut by $148 million. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Regional Director Jackie Cornell-Bechelli told NJTV News Anchor Mary Alice Williams that the Affordable Care Act’s goal is to improve health care for all, not just those enrolled in the marketplace.

Cornell-Bechelli said implementing the Affordable Care Act has worked out well. “In addition to the 252,000 New Jerseyans who have coverage, there’s a whole lot of amazing protections. Things like women can’t be charged a different rate than men. There’s all these great protections that even if you had coverage before, that coverage is stronger now,” she said.

While she didn’t have exact numbers, Cornell-Bechelli said the law has dramatically reduced number of people under 26 without health insurance.

Last week the National Health Council released a report that found nationally one-third of people with chronic health conditions had a tough time finding information they needed. Cornell-Bechelli called the report interesting and said it placed New Jersey in the middle of the states. She said a lot of work has been done, but she also recognizes more needs to happen.

“We’ve worked really hard to take the website from over 50 screens to 17 screens. We’ve created this tool that’s called the Window Shopping Tool. So with just a few key pieces of information you can see what plans are available to you,” Cornell-Bechelli said. “So we’ve done a lot already and I think we’re going to continue to listen to consumers’ feedback from this go-around and keep making improvements.”

She said the goal has been to make the the website more intuitive and closer to the way people use the internet to shop. “We’ll continue to make changes that we evaluate for next year,” she said.

One of the possible improvements is delivery system reform, which Cornell-Bechelli said will offer ways to improve cost savings across the board, not just to members who are in marketplace plans or those who are part of the Medicaid expansion.

“What are we doing to help the health system cut costs and increase productivity and increase outcomes for patients? Because that’s what it’s really about, right? Is people getting healthier,” she said.

The philosophy of the Affordable Care Act was to make health care better and more affordable nationwide. “We always knew that this was a system that needed improvements,” Cornell-Bechelli said. “The Affordable Care Act did a lot to expand coverage for those who hadn’t had it before. But it also did a lot to just improve health care and the health insurance for everyone across the board.”

While lawsuits are still being filed against the Affordable Care Act, Cornell-Bechelli said they are not affecting how the law is being implemented. “We are very confident that the intent of the law was for people to have coverage and there was never any intention that folks in one state would be treated differently than folks in another state. So we’re fairly confident and we’re moving forward every single day with the plan we have,” she said.