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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Health reform: The Mississippi edition

Erin Kelly

Staff Writer

Anne Brooks is a nun and a physician who is attempting to change the lives of lower-income members of her community—one doctor’s visit at a time. She’s been working out of a small clinic in Mississippi for over 27 years, treating people who are often uninsured and can’t pay their medical bills. Because Congress passed comprehensive health reform this year, however, she has hope that things will start looking up soon.

According to a recent report by Families USA, Mississippi, which has the highest poverty rate in the nation, stands to gain a lot from the new law. For starters, all of Mississippi’s 477,000 seniors will be offered free preventive care; 369,000 uninsured residents will gain access to affordable health care by 2019, and lower-income families that qualify will receive subsidies to help pay for coverage.

That is a silver lining for people like Brooks, who according to the Los Angeles Times, is “up against [the] relentless math” of treating those without insurance, while only collecting a small percentage of what she is owed. In 2008, she collected only enough money from patients and insurance companies to cover a quarter of the clinics expenses.

The new law will ensure that those seeking care at Brooks’ clinic will have health insurance, whether it’s through an expansion of Medicaid or via subsidies designed to help Americans afford coverage in the private individual market. This not only means that many of Brooks’ patients will have affordable coverage and won’t have to delay care, but it also means that Brooks will be adequately compensated for the care she provides.

There are people like Ann Brooks all over the country. They became physicians because they wanted to help people but are hitting roadblock after roadblock in getting care to those who need it the most. It’s time they—as well as their patients—start getting the help they need.