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Mike Stein

Michael Stein, Co-Chair Civic Association Healthcare Committee

Local Voices Special to the Daily News
By: Michael Stein, Co-Chair Palm Beach Civic Association Healthcare Committee

One of the most contentious issues in the recent political campaign was "the Affordable Care Act" also known as "Obamacare".  That debate continues as we become more aware of the impact that legislation will have on our access, quality and cost of healthcare. Everyone of us will be affected in one way or another.

For that reason, and consistent with its mission to educate the public and serve the needs of the citizens of Palm Beach, the Palm Beach Civic Association's Health Care Committee is planning a public forum to explain what we now know about "Obamacare" and how it will affect each of us. Health Care Committee co-chairs, Michael Stein  and Dr. Richard Conroy have announced that this forum will be held at the Bethesda By the Sea Episcopal Church in Palm Beach on February 19 at 10 AM. It will consist of a panel of four experts in healthcare, – Mark Nosacka, CEO of Good Samaritan Hospital;  Dr. David Dodson, a prominent practicing internist in the community; Judith Goodman, a public policy educator and attorney; and Richard Bernstein, a local healthcare insurance expert.

Obamacare Forum

The program will be moderated by another local expert, Dr. Michael Dennis, a member of the healthcare committee. Dr. Dennis was formerly chairman of the Town of Palm Beach Medical Care Commission and currently serves as chairman of the board of the new medical school at FAU and on several county and state health related agencies. He, like Mrs. Goodman and Mr. Bernstein are among the very few who have read all 2500 pages of the affordable care act. Dr. Dennis has also reminded us that there are at least 15,000 pages of new regulations associated with this legislation and approximately 217 government panels of which only 19 have been established, so far. How they will affect your doctors' ability to practice as heretofore is still unknown. We are at the beginning of this extensive process and there is much to learn.

So far, we know that millions of people who did not formerly have healthcare insurance can now be covered. Patients with pre-existing medical conditions will be covered, as well, and children will be allowed to stay on their parents insurance up to age 26 if they are not working. It may also be possible to cover preventive medicine. Those are the good parts, if there are enough doctors and money to deliver these services.

On the other hand, we also know that a great deal of money will be taken out of the Medicare program to cover some of these other aspects of Obamacare and that may adversely affect medicare patients. Other insurance issues will come into play. We also know that reimbursement will be affected and the new regulations will impose significant burdens and costs on doctors and hospitals with regard to record keeping and reporting. Those costs will have to be covered somehow. And doctors may be limited in the medicines and procedures they can prescribe for their patients. We may also encounter a shortage of doctors to care for all these additional patients. Many doctors have retired or already sold or given their practices to their local hospitals and that may affect doctor/patient relationships.

These are but a few of the issues that will be addressed at the forum on February 19. And as more information becomes available later on, the Civic Association plans to host additional forums to keep the Palm Beach community fully informed and up-to-date. Mr. Stein and doctors Conroy and Dennis urge members of the community to attend this very important program because educated and involved healthcare consumers are in a better position to protect themselves and their families as we move into unchartered territory in these life affecting services.