Hospitals to re-evaluate assistance programs due to ACA - - Columbia, South Carolina |

Hospitals to re-evaluate assistance programs due to ACA

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Programs to assist Richland County's uninsured may still be needed as many in South Carolina fall into a gap in the Affordable Care Act.

Some hospitals are re-evaluating those assistance programs causing those who don't qualify for insurance to worry.

Richland Care and Compassionate Care programs are partnerships put together to make health care services accessible to those without insurance. The Affordable Care Act could change that, making the programs futures uncertain.

It's called the coverage gap by healthcare navigators.

"Those are people who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but not quite enough to qualify to purchase insurance in the marketplace," said Wanda Pearson from the Cooperative Ministry.

In South Carolina it's compounded by the state's refusal to expand the Medicaid program.

"The Medicaid expansion would have helped people who earn up to 138 percent of federal proverty level, and anyone purchasing insurance in the marketplace would qualify for a tax credit and subsities," said Pearson.

Programs like Richland Care and Compassionate Care have filled the gaps for more than 18,000 over the past decade, giving those without insurance much needed health and medical care. In a statement from Palmetto Health they say, "to comply with the Affordable Care Act's regulatory requirements and implementation", the hospital says they are "reviewing our financial assistance policies including those associated with Compassionate Care, Richland Care, and other programs."

Gwen Wood wonders what she'll do if the hospital determines the programs should end. She tells us the lowest insurance plan is more than half their yearly income. Navigators say everyone needs to go through the enrollment process and if they don't qualify, then they'll need those programs.

"The federally funded health centers, the free clincis will still be available to provide primary care where the difficulties are going to come in are when people need referals for secondary providers for specilaity care," said Pearson

Wood and others worry what they'll do if they're left without any options.

"Maybe with enough data and compelling stories of people falling into this gap again we might be able to get a different decision on Medicaid next time it comes up for a vote," said Pearson.

Navigators next week will move into Palmetto Health locations, Celia Saxon, the emergency rooms, and Baptist Hospital in an effort to be more visible so those without insurance can get their questions answered.

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