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Adding up the cost of health in Glendale

With more than 18% of its residents uninsured, new law will impact city.

October 18, 2013|By Daniel Siegal, daniel.siegal@latimes.com
  • Temple City resident Stephen Houlemard talks about getting health insurance throughout the Affordable Healthcare Act during a visit to the Glendale Free Health Clinic on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013.
Temple City resident Stephen Houlemard talks about getting… (Roger Wilson / Staff…)

One Tuesday a month, Stephen Houlemard gets a ride to the Glendale Free Clinic, located on the second floor of the First United Methodist Church of Glendale, from a friend.

Houlemard, a Temple City resident, comes to the clinic to monitor the diseases — diabetes and Addison's disease, an adrenal gland disorder — he's suffered from for decades, and to pick up medication.

Houlemard's treatment, like that of all patients at the clinic, is paid for with grants from local hospitals and the effort of volunteers. But because he doesn't have health insurance, he is in a precarious state.

"I come here for their care, but if I run into a major problem and wind up in a hospital...." he said, his voice trailing off.

Houlemard, 59, won't qualify for Medicare for another six years. And because his income from the occasional odd job and $600 he receives in disability payments each month is too high, he doesn't qualify for the state's low-income coverage program, Medi-Cal.

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The Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, was designed in part for people like Houlemard. But the new law, the subject of a fight that led to a federal government shutdown that lifted only Thursday, will have an impact on Glendale, which has a large uninsured population.

Proponents say increasing the ranks of the insured will, by definition, create healthier and more productive cities and neighborhoods. But the coverage is not free. Local businesses are concerned about the impact on their bottom lines, and individuals looking into purchasing insurance via online exchanges worry about the pinch on their wallets.

And many may see premiums rise, at least at first, a function of paying for the underinsured and uninsured.

Individual Impact

The ACA is composed of two laws that, experts say, comprise the most drastic change to the American healthcare system since Medicaid and Medicare were created in 1965.

The 2010 laws have already made an impact. Since 2010, insurance companies have been prohibited from denying coverage to people under the age of 19 with preexisting conditions, and children can stay on their parents' insurance up to the age of 26.

Further impacts were felt this month, as new online health insurance marketplaces, known as insurance exchanges, were launched nationwide among still-ongoing technical difficulties on Oct. 1.

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