The federal health reform law's planned expansion of health insurance coverage is likely to increase strain on the U.S. health care system and hinder access to care for undocumented residents, Politico reports.
As many as 33 million U.S. residents will be able to obtain health coverage under the federal health reform law over the next decade, but about 26 million to 27 million individuals still will remain uninsured, according to the Urban Institute.
At least one in four of those uninsured individuals will be undocumented residents Undocumented residents are excluded from the overhaul's coverage expansion and insurance exchanges.
Restricted Access to Care
Advocates note that those individuals also could face increasingly restricted access to care. The health reform law reduces payments to hospitals that treat a disproportionate number of uninsured patients. In addition, federal funding to help hospitals provide care to the uninsured will be gradually reduced by about $57 billion over the next 10 years, Politico reports.
In an effort to overcome the challenges, hospitals and health care providers in some regions are testing strategies to improve access to medical treatment for undocumented residents. For example, a Los Angeles not-for-profit clinic teamed up with a restaurant workers' group to provide low-cost primary and preventive care.
However, advocates say they are concerned that health care access for residents could be diminished in other communities, particularly if providers decide to scale back preventive health services and follow-up care for undocumented residents (Cheney, Politico, 5/23).