Last week, President Barack Obama signed into law health care reform that will affect millions of people. How it’s going to do that, however, is a question many are still wondering about. We asked some key figures what changes patients, hospitals and clinics.

Last week, President Barack Obama signed into law health care reform that will affect millions of people. How it’s going to do that, however, is a question many are still wondering about. We asked some key figures what changes patients, hospitals and clinics.

Wayne Smith, president and CEO of the Delaware Healthcare Association
The Delaware Healthcare Association is a statewide trade and membership service organization that represents and serves hospitals, health systems and health care organizations. The goal is to provide appropriate, cost-effective, quality care to improve Delawareans’ health.

What does the new law mean for the uninsured?
If you’re an uninsured American, this is really good news because you’re going to get low cost or no cost insurance. It’s a good thing that tens of millions of Americans are going to have insurance. It’s just a good thing.

What does it mean for hospitals and health care providers?
Hospitals have long struggled with uncompensated care; they don’t get paid for a lot of patients they treat. Under the law, we will now get paid because of the tens of millions who will now have insurance.
On the front end, it’s a good thing because we’ll get paid. On the back end, one of the ways extended coverage is funded is by reducing Medicare reimbursements to the hospital industry. So we’ll lose money through slower growth and reimbursements though Medicare, and gain because most people in the door have insurance.
As with anything, there will be some winners and some losers. As an industry as a whole, it should break even.
As far as growth goes, I can guarantee that almost every health care provider will need to hire people to deal with these changes.

When will the public see changes brought about by the law?
There aren’t many changes coming soon, most of it will not happen until after the next presidential election.
Right now, it is conceptual. That’s going to be frustrating for people with preexisting conditions or without insurance. On the other hand, it gives the people writing the rules and regulations time to get it right.

Melissa Noyes, director of planning and communications for the Mid-Atlantic Association of Community Health Centers
The Mid-Atlantic Association of Community Health Centers is the federally designated primary care association representing community health centers in Maryland and Delaware. In Delaware, the federally qualified health centers are Delmarva Rural Ministries in Dover, Henrietta Johnson Medical Center in Wilmington, La Red Health Center in Georgetown, and Westside Family Healthcare in Wilmington, Newark, Wilmington and Bear.

What does the new law mean for federally qualified health centers?
The legislation is pretty broad, and we don’t know exactly how they’re going to divide the money yet. Health centers have to provide primary care services and then can they can apply for dental care, behavioral health and other specialties. So we don’t know yet how they will divide that up.
We just know that they’re exponentially increasing funding for community health centers across the board for the next five years.

How does that impact how many patients health centers will see?
How that plays out, we don’t know yet. I imagine it’s going to be significant.

Will the funding bring more health centers or expand existing ones?
There will probably be more health centers, and existing ones will probably expand by bringing in more doctors, adding hours, maybe adding dental suites, for example.
And there will probably be new access points within existing locations or organizations. There are still a lot of communities out there that need health centers and don’t have them.
This is conjecture, but if new centers are to be built, money will likely go to “shovel-ready” ones, ones that will be up and running within 120 days of getting notification that you were chosen.

Karen Weldin Stewart, Delaware insurance commissioner
The Delaware Department of Insurance’s goal is to ensure reliable insurance coverage at reasonable rates for Delawareans, and ensuring claims are paid in a timely manner.

What will the new legislation do, ideally?
“History will look kindly on this first major step of President Obama, Vice President Biden and Speaker Pelosi if this landmark piece of legislation begins to put the citizens’ interests first, is administered successfully, funded properly, and brings down costs while elevating the health of our nation,” Stewart said in a press release.

Are there any outstanding issues?
The legislation seems to allow state regulators flexibility, and also allow for a partnership between states and the federal government.
The outstanding issues, however, include the need to encourage the young and healthy to enter the market; make certain that rates are reduced for small businesses; and change the way health care is delivered, reimbursed and accessed.

How will the bill directly and positively impact Delawareans?
It guarantees the issuance of health insurance in the individual market; eliminates pre-existing condition exclusions; prohibits annual and unreasonable lifetime limits; reforms rating factors to eliminate ratings based on health status; and creates state-based health insurance exchanges.