While health care providers prepare for national health care reform – or worry about their capacity to meet an upsurge in demand – many Chicago residents who will benefit have little idea about changes that are coming.
In the final installment  of the Neighborhood Stories series at Illinois Health Matters, Judith Graham talks about health care reform with South and West Side residents, many with serious health issues who have had trouble accessing care. Many are uniformed, and some are skeptical, she reports.
There’s a “gaping chasm” between policymakers implementing reform and low-income residents, and it demands stepped-up outreach and education, Graham writes.
Many don’t know about the expansion of Medicaid – income standards will be raised, and adults without dependent children will become eligible, giving an additional 500,000 to 800,000 Illinois residents coverage.
Meanwhile, with budget pressures on Medicaid growing, private clinics turning away Medicaid patients, and expected funding for an expansion of community health clinics yet to materialize, providers worry about meeting increased demand.
Another challenge: the Cook County Health Service faces a “struggle to redefine itself” as the number of uninsured people declines, and those who are left are increasingly undocumented residents ineligible for Medicaid.
An additional 300,000 Illinois residents are expected to purchase insurance on a new insurance exchange under the individual mandate. In many cases they’ll be eligible for government subsidies for coverage.
On the South and West Sides, meanwhile, hospitals and clinics are banding together to provide “medical homes” and more comprehensive care for Medicaid patients and others, a development that health reform will continue to encourage.
Illinois Health Matters  is a one-stop online resource for information on health care reform, managed by Health and Disability Advocates in partnership with a number of community organizations. Consumers can subscribe to the Illinois Health Matters newsletter at the site, or follow the project on Facebook  or Twitter .