CEO Message: There's Still Work to Be Done

November 9, 2016  |  Foundation News, Message from the CEO

From the President & CEO

When contemplating the potential future of the Affordable Care Act post-election, I must remind myself that there was no ACA when the REACH Healthcare Foundation was established in 2003 and for several years after I accepted the first CEO position here in 2004. Our charge, then and now, is the same—to advance equity in health care coverage, access and quality for poor and underserved people.

REACH staff, our board of directors, and our nonprofit partners did great work in our early years dialing up the conversation on our region’s high rates of uninsurance, identifying national best practice models and providing technical assistance to enable their spread throughout our service area, and identifying the most critical organizations in our community to serve as a safety net to thousands of patients every year.

In hindsight, the passage of the ACA in 2010 was a rare gift, one that bolstered our cause. It created a multiplier effect for our efforts to reduce the area’s uninsured rate through the establishment of the Health Insurance Marketplace.  It provided a clarion call for reforms and expansion of eligibility for public health insurance programs such as Medicaid and CHIP in Kansas and Missouri to which we could add our voice.

The ACA was ultimately a necessary step in the advancement of national debate on the soaring costs of health care and the inability of so many of our neighbors to experience the economic security of health insurance for themselves and their families. And even with the acknowledged weaknesses in the law, it has had a proven, positive effect on insurance status in our six-county region and across our two states.

In the days and months to come, calls of “Repeal and Replace” relative to the ACA will no doubt gain traction—most certainly the call to repeal. But if the ACA is to be repealed by its opponents, the question for American consumers is with what do we want it replaced?

  • Do we return to the days of Americans being declined coverage due to a pre-existing condition?
  • Do women go back to paying higher premiums than men because of our gender?
  • Do our 18- to 24-year-old children go without insurance because their first employers do not offer coverage and we can’t add them to our family’s plan?
  • Do our medical providers only see us when we are critically ill because preventative check-ups are no longer free?

I believe the answer for most Americans is a resounding “no way.”

REACH and our hundreds of partners across the region will quickly adapt to our new political environment and do what effective advocates have always done—support those who share our passion and mission to serve vulnerable populations, educate those who don’t, identify existing and newly elected legislators committed to civil discourse on complex issues, and find innovative ways to ensure that more people have coverage and access to quality care.

So onward, my friends and fellow advocates—there is work to be done.

Brenda R. Sharpe

President and CEO