Austin-area health officials cautiously optimistic on Obamacare


by JIM BERGAMO / KVUE News and photojournalist JOHN FISHER

Bio | Email | Follow: @JimB_KVUE

Posted on September 30, 2013 at 5:17 PM

Updated Monday, Sep 30 at 6:00 PM

AUSTIN -- The health insurance marketplace opens nationwide online Tuesday. Central Texas Health officials gathered at Dell Children's Medical Center Monday to discuss the impact of the possible government shutdown on Obamacare as well as the pros and the cons of the program.

There was optimism at Dell Children's on the eve the Affordable Care Act was to open its insurance marketplace. Some say it will give patients a better understanding as they compare apples to apples when purchasing insurance.

"The most important thing in a state where one in four people has no insurance is this will create an opportunity for people to become insured," said Norman Chenven, M.D., the CEO and founder of Austin Regional Clinic.

"Insure a Kid sees lots of families, children and pregnant women," said Kit Abney Spelce, the director of Insure a Kid. She says if a family makes a dollar more than the income eligibility for CHIP, the Children's Health Insurance Program, that family currently doesn't have access to health insurance.

"Beginning tomorrow these families can go online and apply for insurance," she said. "They can get an actual subsidy to help them pay for those monthly premiums."

However, questions still abound over the Affordable Care Act.

"We're not really quite exactly sure how it's going to impact hospitals," said Bob Bonar, the president and CEO of the Seton Family of Hospitals and Dell Children's Medical Center. "I have the operating responsibility for 11 hospitals, so as you can imagine, that gets my attention."

Then there's the cost.

"How much is it going to cost an average family of four to insure themselves?" asked Bonar. "I don't think we have enough experience to know that yet."

There are also questions regarding how the possible government shutdown might impact the Affordable Care Act.  

"Even if the government shut down and/or it would be defunded, I really don't think that will change a lot," said Bonar. "I think the major principals will be driven and are being driven already by the states."

"There was as much of a fight with Medicare when it was first implemented in 1965," said Chenven.  "It was just as bitter. Now I don't think there's anyone who is over 65 who thinks they could live without Medicare."

Go here for more information about the online heath insurance marketplace.

Go here for more information on the Affordable Care Act.