Seven years ago, hospitals across the country came together to support the Affordable Care Act – a sweeping and untested yet hugely promising national experiment to expand health care coverage to millions of Americans. Hospitals’ support came not from political ideology, but from prioritizing patients. At a fundamental level, more people with access to health care services means that hospitals are better equipped to meet their mission of care.
Now, as the push in Congress to repeal and replace the ACA evolves (even by the minute today), hospitals remain committed to the principle that broad-based coverage is the foundation of efficient, high-quality health care. That’s why hospitals across the nation oppose the American Health Care Act as it is written.
Health care reform brought an additional 450,000 Marylanders over the past five years access to the care they need. But the proposed AHCA is expected to result in hundreds of thousands of Marylanders losing health care coverage. Some will choose not to have insurance, as the financial penalties for not having coverage would be removed. Others simply won't be able to afford insurance as subsidies to defray the costs would be repealed. And up to 180,000 of our most vulnerable, low-income residents on Medicaid could lose coverage entirely.
And the proposal drives up the cost of health care for everyone in Maryland. Hospitals’ uncompensated care dropped by $350 million as a result of the coverage gained under the Affordable Care Act. As Marylanders lose their health coverage, the cost of uncompensated care gets passed on to everyone in the form of higher health care costs and higher insurance premiums.
Maryland’s hospitals know well the value of broad-based coverage, as it has been a key component of the progress that’s been made in controlling costs and improving quality under the All-Payer Model. Without coverage, hospitals will be impaired in their work to direct Marylanders to the right care, at the right time, and in the right setting. Once again, hospital emergency departments could become the only source of routine, but very expensive, care for many more Marylanders.
There is tremendous potential if the improvements under the All-Payer Model are allowed to continue, and tremendous danger for Maryland’s hospitals if the foundation of this progress – broad-based coverage – is swept away.
The outcome of today’s proceedings, if there is one, will do little to quell the national health care debate. That’s why hospitals will continue to urge Congress to put forth a proposal that protects patients and preserves coverage, just as they did seven years ago.