Monday, September 13, 2010

Bishop's Quality of Life: Concho Valley & San Angelo

San Angelo Bishop Michael Pfeifer will gather leaders to discuss quality of life issues, including health. His meeting will occur Wednesday at Christ the King Retreat Center. It starts at 11:30 am and is expected to last two hours.

Thursday the U.S. Census will release projections for the poor and uninsured. Sadly, both statistics are expected to soar.

Tom Green County has twenty three percent (23%) of residents with no health insurance. The uninsured range from 28% to 40% in other Concho Valley counties. Health reform will dent these numbers come 2014, but the uninsured won't disappear, not by a long shot.

Shannon Medical Center's service area includes 34,000 without health insurance. Health reform, known as PPACA, is expected to cut America's uninsured by 60% in 2019. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates 32 million will gain coverage, while 24 million remain uninsured, including undocumented immigrants.

Should San Angelo approximate national projections, the region would have 15,500 uninsureds come 2019. This population will look to Shannon for acute and specialty care (80%) while Community Medical Center would receive (20%). The uninsured would have primary care available via Esperanza Clinic.

Recent health care developments include the City's acceptance in the Early Retiree Reinsurance Program (ERRP), expected to save $650,000 over a two year period. Also, Tom Green County is leveraging $3.5 million in federal Medicaid dollars through the Upper Payment Limit (UPL) program. Despite years of good experience, not spending the Indigent Health budget, citizens must still be the "poorest of the poor" to qualify.

Will health care be discussed? There is an opportunity to maximize benefits for San Angelo and the region under health reform. Providers, local leaders and health care organizations worked together under the auspices of San Angelo's Health Access Coalition from 1999-2003. The players were Mayor Fender, Rep. Rob Junnell, Congressman Charlie Stenholm, Kevin Barry, Lawrence Leonard and Sam Feazell. I facilitated the coalition.

Alison Reynolds-Dixon wrote great pieces for the Standard Times. This time, I aim to fill her shoes. Bishop Pfeiffer authorized my attending as a journalist.

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