CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- More than 50 local residents gathered at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation on the West Side Wednesday night to discuss recently passed health care reform legislation and what it has to offer them and the state.
A panel of four community leaders with health-care ties explained how the reform will change existing programs and create ways for the uninsured to "shop around" for health insurance.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, passed earlier this year, will require all Americans to have health insurance by 2014.
Renate Pore, health-care analyst for the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, explained that the new reform would expand the benefits of existing programs such as Medicade, which covers more than 300,000 in the state, she said.
Eligibility for Medicade will expand to cover more people, such as a family of three receiving about $25,000, she said.
"I think about the waitress who serves your meals, who doesn't have any health insurance and all those hard working, low-income people, who don't have coverage," Pore said. "They will be covered by Medicade in 2014."
The reform would also create an exchange market for people to search for affordable healthcare, said Perry Bryant, executive director of West Virginians for Affordable Healthcare.
The panel also discussed ways in which the new reform will change wasteful spending and exclusion practices of previous insurance carriers.
A doctor will no longer be able to look at medical history when determining who to insure, Bryant said. Insurance companies cannot charge additional money for pre-existing conditions or the gender of a patient, he said.