Thursday's Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act will have direct impact on Sonoma County, allowing more people to access health care who previously were prevented due to cost or unemployment, said local health care official.
The expects an increase of 5,000 more patients from its southern Sonoma County service area over the next few years directly because of this law, according to Kathie Powell, president of the clinic.
"Greater access to care will improve community health and help workers be more productive on the job, keep students in school and thriving and reduce chronic disease which is very costly for the community,” Powell said.
“It also means an end to discrimination against those with pre-existing conditions, offering these patients a chance to focus on wellness and reducing the impacts of their conditions and, in some cases, reversing them altogether.”
Under the law, initially passed in 2010, consumers will be able to purchase care in a new competitive private health insurance market, aimed at keeping costs down.
Kevin Klockenga, president and CEO of the St. Joseph Health System, which runs Petaluma Valley Hospital and Santa Rosa Memorial, said the company was pleased with Thursday's ruling and has backed the law from the beginning.
"This is an exciting time for us because we are the generation that has the opportunity to make a difference," Klockenga said in a statement. "We understand how families and employers are struggling and we are extremely concerned about the accessibility and affordability of health care services."
In a 5-4 vote, the nation's highest court ruled that the mandate requiring everyone to have health insurance through their employer or a private plan was constitutional and that those who did not buy it would be subject to a tax.
Under the ruling, states will be able to opt out of expanding their Medicaid programs, aimed at low-income people. But since California has been at the forefront of states seeking to implement health care reform, it is poised to accept $9 billion per year to expand the program, known locally as Medi-Cal.
Do you currently have health insurance? If not, how do you get medical treatment?