During this time of uncertainty about the future of health care in our state and in our country, we are left to wonder how potential changes may ultimately affect the many hospitals that provide critical care in our communities.
Arizona Governor Doug Ducey recently wrote a guest commentary which was printed in newspapers throughout our state that, in part, voiced concern over how a straight repeal of the Affordable Care Act without an appropriate replacement plan could hurt Arizona hospitals….particularly in rural communities.
As Congress moves forward on a path towards repealing and replacing Obamacare it is critical that patients seeking care in Arizona’s hospitals retain access to the full range of high-quality medical services they need and deserve. This means that legislation that repeals Obamacare, must also repeal the Medicare and Medicaid hospital reductions embedded in the law to ensure our community hospitals have the resources they need to meet their public health and safety mission on behalf of Arizona citizens.
We don’t want to see rural Arizonans lose access to care or have to travel unacceptably long distances to get life-saving medical treatments which would create a serious problem, especially in emergency situations, where seconds and minutes can make the difference between life and death.
In the last decade or so, Arizona has already lost three rural hospitals. As part of the repeal of Obamacare, there must be a patient-focused, common-sense replacement that also protects the viability of our rural health care providers.
The Denver Post just ran a story that warned of hospital closures if Obamacare is repealed without a replacement. “Across Colorado, as many as eight hospitals “could have sustainability problems” if the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, is repealed without a similar replacement, said Steven Summer, the president and CEO of the Colorado Hospital Association. “Our concern,” Summer said, “is it will create considerable disruption in the community and put at risk care throughout the state.”
A recent Bloomberg.com headline read, “American Hospitals are Disappearing – – and Repealing Obamacare Will Make It Worse.” The following excerpt is from that article.
Rural facilities, which typically have lower margins, are the most vulnerable, and their closures have a societal impact — forcing patients to travel to get emergency care. More than 600 rural hospitals are at risk of closing because of their finances and, at current closure rates, more than a quarter of them will shut down in less than 10 years, according to the National Rural Healthcare Association, which tracks the number.
And the Immediate Past-Chair of the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association (AzHHA) , Judy Rich, recently wrote a piece for Tucson.com titled, “Simply repealing Obamacare would harm Arizona hospitals, residents.” Part of what Ms. Rich wrote, read, “The American Hospital Association has estimated that a straight repeal would cost hospitals more than $165 billion between 2018 and 2026 — and that number would be exponentially higher factoring the loss of other parts of the act. In all, these cuts would cripple one of the strongest employment sectors of most communities and would threaten the very place we go when we are most vulnerable.”
As the push to repeal the ACA continues, let us know how important it will be to have a replacement plan in place for the people, and the hospitals, of your community. Making sure our hospitals remain strong will help to keep our communities healthy. And the healthier we are – the sooner we can reach our long-term goal of one day making Arizona the Healthiest State in the Nation!