Monthly Archives: October 2013

Obamacare’s Impact on the Homeless

by Dr. Chad Audi

Thank goodness the federal government is back up and running after a 16-day shutdown. At issue was the implementation of President Obama’s new healthcare law, the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Tea Party Republicans were intent on not funding the government, unless Democrats agreed to delay the start of the healthcare act. The standoff ended with Obamacare intact.

Now the President has turned his attention to ensuring that all Americans have access to quality, affordable health insurance. The new law strives to lower healthcare costs, and it gives states the option to expand Medicaid coverage to all eligible people with earnings less than 133 percent of the Federal Poverty Level.

So, what impact will the Affordable Care Act have on the nation’s homeless? Will it help prevent homelessness? According to the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, the new healthcare law will benefit the homeless by making health insurance accessible and affordable; providing preventative, wellness and behavioral healthcare services; and focusing on the whole person’s health needs by partnering with community-based organizations.

The Affordable Care Act is welcome news for the nation’s homeless. Especially for the growing number of children without healthcare coverage who must suffer through worsening health issues, a lack of immunizations, and crisis visits to hospital emergency rooms. Here in the Detroit-area, there are an estimated 550,000 individuals without health insurance. As many as 100,000 of them are children ages 10 and under.

Since 2008, the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (DRMM) has operated the non-profit S.A.Y. Detroit Family Health Clinic in partnership with S.A.Y. Detroit, the charity founded by journalist and best-selling author Mitch Albom. The clinic provides free maintenance and preventative healthcare services for uninsured and homeless children and their mothers.

At DRMM, we also provide medical care for the thousands of homeless individuals and families who are unemployed, uninsured or underinsured, and living in poverty. Often, their medical conditions have worsened due to the stress and challenges of being homeless. As a result, many homeless individuals only receive healthcare during emergency room visits. Preventative care is nonexistent.

Others are in desperate need of kicking an addiction that has dragged them into homelessness. Each year, DRMM provides in-patient substance abuse treatment and detoxification services to an estimated 1,700 uninsured men and women.

And, in some cases, pre-existing, serious health issues can contribute to a person’s homelessness. The illness and the inability to pay expensive medical bills can lead to a downward spiral that leaves the individual bankrupt, jobless and uninsured.
Treating a homeless person’s medical challenges is a first step toward rebuilding his or her life and giving them a chance at a healthier tomorrow.

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Government Shutdown Hurts Many

by Dr. Chad Audi

The partial shutdown of the federal government is an unfortunate situation that has the potential of impacting many people. Not only have federal employees been furloughed, but non-profit organizations like ours, Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (DRMM), will soon feel the effects of the government shutdown. We depend heavily upon federal funding to pay for our many programs and services that keep thousands of homeless individuals and families off the street and put them on the path to becoming self-sustaining.

If the government shutdown continues much longer, DRMM and other similar human and social services agencies around the country will be hurting, and so will the people who depend upon us for food, shelter, clothing, job training, educational classes, and more.

While DRMM has many generous private donors, a prolonged government shutdown will force us to depend more upon our friends and supporters to increase the amount and/or frequency of their donations in order for us to continue to function at our current capacity. That’s a lot to ask. Especially with today’s uncertain economy and high unemployment rates in many cities, including Detroit. The holiday shopping season is just around the corner, and it is likely consumer confidence will wane if the government shutdown is still going on, thereby hurting the overall economy even more.

What’s at issue here? Republicans are holding firm that they will only agree to fund and re-open the government if President Obama and Democrats agree to delay the implementation of the President’s healthcare law, the Affordable Care Act. The launch of the healthcare law occurred on October 1st, so Republicans are trying to stop something that has already begun.

It’s ironic that the same issues Democrats, Republicans and the White House are fighting about — spending and healthcare in these austere times — are now in jeopardy of getting worse due to the hundreds of thousands of government employees going every day without a paycheck and the ripple effect on the nation’s human services agencies that depend on government funding to feed and provide medical care for those in need. The longer the shutdown continues, the more victims it will create.

My message to the White House and Congress: Negotiate. Break the deadlock. There are no real winners in this battle — but a lot of people stand to lose.

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