A new report from a nonpartisan healthcare watchdog claims Long Island is ready to roll out the new health care reforms, dubbed Obamacare, though the report claims there could be a few bumps in the road.
The Center for Studying Health System Change in a Sept. 19 report said the area is "well positioned for smooth implementation" of the Affordable Care Act, passed by Congress in 2010. It is a primarily affluent area where most are insured, thanks to the majority of employers offering full insurance to workers, the report claims.
But the region may have its struggles. The state only recently approved the establishment of a state insurance exchange, a key requirement of the bill since it will allow those without insurance broader options to find mandatory coverage. The political wrangling over the exchange could hurt the program's credibility, according to the report.
The region also has a very small market for independent, small insurers.
"Today, direct-purchase nongroup enrollment accounts for no more than 0.1 percent of the state population, and the only products offered are health maintenance organizations (HMOs), which are required by state law to make products available to nongroup purchasers but without restrictions on premium rates," the report states. As a result, the state's "current nongroup market is very small and contains mostly very sick people paying hefty premiums.
Long Island also has a very consolidated health care network, with only two acute-care hospitals, Stony Brook University Hospital and Nassau University Medical Center, which has its own financial struggles.
But despite the warning tone, the report concludes a fairly smooth switchover as the controversial health reform approaches its start date. Its biggest gripe is with the state.
"It remains to be seen how stable and sustainable New York’s premiums will remain over time," the report, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, concludes. "If rates spiral upward, it is uncertain whether individual-mandate penalties will be high enough to keep healthier individuals in the risk pool. Paradoxically, New York’s legacy of aggressive health insurance regulation may work against the viability of health reform."