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How does ObamaCare affect Community Health? by Sherry Thornburg

SherryThornburg Executive Director Ottauquechee Health Foundation

Sherry Thornburg
Executive Director
Ottauquechee Health Foundation

This past election period has brought attention to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), commonly called the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or Obamacare, which is a United States federal statute enacted by President Barack Obama on March 23, 2010.  ObamaCare’s goal is to give more Americans access to affordable, quality health insurance and to reduce the growth in U.S. health care spending.

The Ottauquechee Health Foundation is a local community health foundation with a mission to promote and support access to health care.

Access to health care is listed as a top priority according to regional, state, and national research. Recent findings from the National Healthcare Quality Report (NHQR) showed that uninsured or underinsured people were less likely to get recommended care for disease prevention, such as cancer screening, dental care and counseling.  Poor access to health care affects individuals, their families and their communities.

Opponents to universal access to health care might argue that access to health care for all amounts to socialism and that it should be an individual’s responsibility, not the government’s role, to secure health care.

At the Ottauquechee Health Foundation, we know that poor access to health care comes at both a personal and societal cost. We understand and have witnessed firsthand the effects on the health of those coming from generational poverty, our growing aged population living on fixed incomes, and community members lacking access to health care because of an unexpected event such as illness, injury, or death.  We have seen personal financial circumstances change overnight and, as a result, urgent and necessary medical needs are no longer a priority due to inability to pay for health related treatment.

“Thank you OHF!  You helped me make an important start to address much neglected       areas of my health due to lack of funds.”  OHF Good Neighbor Grant Recipient 2016

The costs of neglect are great.  For example, if people do not receive necessary physical therapy after a serious accident or major surgery, they are less likely to return to the work force and live independently. They may become unable to care for themselves and rely on their family, friends, and social service agencies.  This increases the overall burden of disease for society in addition to the hardship for individuals and their families.

We also see people living in rural communities experience additional barriers to health care that limit their ability to get the care they need.  For instance, to have good health care access, a rural resident must also have:

  • Financial means to pay for services, such as health insurance coverage
  • Transportation to services which may be located at a distance, and the ability to take  time off of work

At the Ottauquechee Health Foundation, we can help those who do not have transportation access prescribed health treatment such as chemotherapy, dental, and frequent mental health appointments.

Health and health care disparities refer to differences in health and health care between populations.  Disparities in health and health care not only affect the groups facing disparities, but also limit overall improvements in quality of care and health for the broader population and result in unnecessary costs.  In addition, lack of access to health care because of economic status, isolation, or disability, results in economic losses due to indirect costs associated with lost work productivity and premature death.

The Ottauquechee Health Foundation has found that addressing disparities in health care improves the health of all community members.

The Ottauquechee Health Foundation mission is to provide access to health care.  Thanks to the support of donations from community members and local businesses, this year we will fund nearly $200,000 in support for people seeking health care with limited financial resources, for people aging in home and requiring caregiver services, and for community health education to assure that community members are aware of current community health issues.

We know that a healthy community is one in which all residents have access to quality education, safe and healthy homes, adequate employment, transportation, physical activity, and nutrition, in addition to quality health care. Unhealthy communities suffer from chronic disease, such as cancers, diabetes, and heart disease. The health of our community is critical to the growth and development of our region.

For more information about the Ottauquechee Health Foundation and our programs please give us a call at 802-457-4188 or check out our programs on this website.

This blog was written by Sherry Thornburg, OHF Executive Director.

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