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Bellevue Hospital boss says health law repeal would be 'devastating'

• Jul 13, 2017 at 2:00 PM

A federal legislator and local hospital administrator say the proposed repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) would bring bad consequences for Ohio’s rural communities, including Huron County.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., announced this week that he will delay the start of the traditional August recess to give more time for he and fellow senators to work on the Republican-iniated Obamacare repeal attempt.

Next week, the Senate is expected to vote on Republican’s alternative to the ACA — the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA). The U.S. House of Representatives previously passed the American Health Care Act (AHCA), and the legislation was renamed in the draft Senate version. Proponents say this bill is the first part of a three-phase plan to repeal the ACA, also known as Obamacare.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) on Wednesday released a report outlining the consequences of a repeal.

Fifty of Ohio’s 88 counties are considered rural, accounting for more than 20 percent of the state’s population, according to the Health Resources and Services Administration’s (HRSA) Office of Rural Health Policy.

Among those are Huron County, where there are 4,213 residents insured by Medicaid expansion and ACA marketplaces. Of those, 3,202 are insured under Medicaid expansion.

If the Senate bill passes, the average premium increase projected for Huron County residents buying insurance on the individual market is $395.

“Our rural counties already face unique health care challenges — from attracting top talent, to delivering care to far-flung populations, to fighting the opioid epidemic,” Brown said. “Instead of pushing legislation that harms Ohioans in rural communities to pad the pockets of insurance and pharmaceutical CEOs, we should be working together to tackle these challenges and lower health care costs for all families.

Obamacare repeal effects for Ohio’s rural communities, as outlined in Browns’ report, include:

• Threats to coverage and increasing healthcare costs for the more than 170,000 residents in rural communities who currently receive healthcare coverage through the marketplace or through Ohio’s expanded Medicaid program.

• Risk of closure for 22 percent of Ohio’s rural hospitals, which would result in job loss and would force individuals in rural areas to travel farther for necessary care or potentially forgo necessary care altogether, according to the Ohio Hospital Association.

Mike Winthrop, president and CEO of The Bellevue Hospital, joined Brown in discussing the subject.

“The potential of the ACA repeal will have a devastating effect on hospitals all across the country and, most notably, small and rural hospitals. In Ohio, Medicaid Expansion has given access, and hope, to over 170,000 residents in rural communities,” Winthrop said. 

“With proper coverage, individuals are more likely to receive routine, including preventative, care and therefore lesson their risk of various illnesses and diseases. We must be diligent in fighting to retain, and expand on, the progress we have made through the adoption of the ACA and, as a result, Medicaid Expansion in Ohio,” Winthrop added.

With 800 employees, Norwalk Area Health Systems is Huron County’s largest healthcare facility and county’s third-largest employer.

According to 2010 census figures, 19.3 percent of Huron County’s population is older than age 60.

There are 517 adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities who rely on Medicaid.

Brown’s report highlights how Ohio’s rural communities would be especially harmed by provisions in the Senate healthcare bill that would lead to:

• Loss of healthcare coverage

• Higher premiums

• Hospital closure and job loss

• Reduction in Health Provider Options

• Cuts to opioid and substance use disorder services

• Higher healthcare costs for older Americans

• Cuts to schools and school-based services

Under the Senate bill, $1,677,091 in funding would be cut from Huron County school districts. Currently, those districts receive $310,572 annually in federal Medicaid funds.

The bill would also take away a critical tool in combating the opioid epidemic in Ohio, which has hit rural communities particularly hard. The Senate bill would end Gov. John Kasich’s expansion of Medicaid and pass deep cuts to the Medicaid program. Ohio experts have said Medicaid coverage is the state’s best tool for getting people into treatment and simply putting more money in the bill without Medicaid won’t work without a Medicaid program to get people covered.

According to a Harvard study more than 220,000 Ohioans with addiction or mental health disorders now have coverage under the Affordable Care Act – 151,257 through the Medicaid expansion and 69,225 under private insurance purchased through the marketplace. Repeal would kick those people off of their insurance, potentially disrupting treatment services for hundreds of thousands of Ohioans as they are fighting for their lives.

The proposed Senate healthcare bill would not only take away coverage for addiction treatment, but it also does nothing to lower costs for Ohioans struggling to afford their premiums or prescription drug costs.

Ohioans between the ages of 50 and 65 who do not have coverage through an employer would face even higher healthcare costs and be charged up to five times as much for coverage, and all Ohioans could lose access to essential health benefits currently mandated under the Affordable Care Act, such as mental health services and maternity coverage.

According to the CBO, the Senate bill would increase the number of uninsured by 22 million by 2026. It would also leave 15 million more uninsured next year compared to the Affordable Care Act. It will initially raise premiums by 20 percent next year and result in higher out-of-pocket costs for patients.

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Rep. Jordan: Cruz-Lee consumer choice amendment helps Republicans keep Obamacare promise

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following op-ed piece written by U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Urbana) was sent to the Reflector by his office:

For the past six years, Republicans have been consistently campaigning on a promise to repeal and replace Obamacare. We won the House of Representatives in 2010, the Senate in 2014 and the White House in 2016 in no small part due to this one promise.

Now it is time to keep that promise.

It’s frustrating to Americans across the country, as well my conservative colleagues, that Congress did not fully repeal Obamacare. Both the American Health Care Act in the House and the Better Care Reconciliation Act in the Senate keep the Medicaid expansion in place and keep Obamacare mandates in place. In the Senate, there’s even talk of leaving some of the Obamacare taxes in place.

Even though the AHCA that passed the House wasn’t full repeal, it became a much better bill because of the intense involvement of conservatives. Our bill brings down premium costs for consumers by allowing states to waive many Obamacare regulations. Americans across the country are being crushed by the burden of Obamacare’s out-of-control premium costs. The AHCA is a crucial first step to repealing and replacing Obamacare.

The Senate’s version, the BCRA currently repeals even less of Obamacare than the House version. Thankfully, conservatives like Mike Lee and Ted Cruz are pushing for an amendment that would give Americans what they need: more choices that provide relief from Obamacare’s regulations and soaring premiums.

Senator Cruz and Mike Lee’s consumer choice amendment would allow insurance companies to offer the type of lower-cost plans that consumers want – plans that aren’t forced to comply with every Obamacare regulation – as long as that company also sells at least one Obamacare-compliant plan. This would allow everyday Americans to escape the high costs driven by Obamacare’s regulations, while still offering plans that met those requirements for individuals who want them. This common-sense approach would allow Americans the freedom to choose the kind of health insurance that they want, instead of forcing them to accept what the federal government required.

I believe the Cruz-Lee amendment would reintroduce freedom and the free market into the Senate’s plan. It would provide relief to Americans across the country, and it would show that Republicans are serious about keeping their promises.

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