Hospitals worry about caring for newly uninsured in plan
When Colorado expanded Medicaid coverage under former President Barack Obama’s health care law, the largest provider in the Denver region hired more than 250 employees and built a $27 million primary care clinic and two new school-based clinics.
Emergency rooms visits stayed flat as Denver Health Medical Center directed many of the nearly 80,000 newly insured patients into one of its 10 community health centers, where newly hired social workers and mental health therapists provided services for some of the county’s poorest residents. Demand for services at the new primary care clinic was almost immediate.
The hospital system, like others around the country, now is facing enormous uncertainty under the health care overhaul proposed by congressional Republicans.
The GOP plan would scale back the Medicaid expansion and take away direct federal subsidies to help consumers pay their health insurance premiums, replacing them with age-adjusted tax credits.
Denver Health could see revenue losses between $50 million and $85 million by 2020, which is between 5 percent and 9 percent of their annual revenue, according to the hospital’s chief financial officer. Denver Health and many other hospital systems and medical providers across the country still would be required to care for many of the same patients, even if they lost their health coverage. That would leave hospitals, state and local governments, or privately insured patients to foot the bill.
“If it’s full removal of Medicaid expansion, we would have to make cuts on our system, and I really think that those cuts would roll back our progress and could paradoxically increase the cost of care by driving care back to where it shouldn’t be — in the emergency rooms,” said Dr. Bill Burman, interim chief executive for Denver Health.
The Republican plan would limit the amount of federal money available to states that opted to expand Medicaid, which provides health coverage to the poor and lower-income people. It also would overhaul the framework of Medicaid generally so that in the future states would receive a limited amount per person based on enrollment and costs.