Health Care

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ValleyCare Exec: Restore Medicare Hospital Payments with ACA Repeal

January 6, 2017

Submitted by John Walsh
CEO at Trumbull Memorial Hospital and Hillside Rehabilitation Hospital;
Chief operating officer for ValleyCare Health System of Ohio

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Congress and President-elect Trump have promised to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) this year. If they are successful, it is imperative that they restore critical Medicare payment cuts to hospitals and clinics that were embedded in the ACA and which are so important to caregivers in Ohio. If this does not happen, it will create major obstacles to people seeking care, especially among the poor, disabled, and elderly, and those in rural areas.

As a hospital administrator with 30 years of experience in the health care industry, I am responsible for running the day-to-day operations here at Trumbull Memorial Hospital and Hillside Rehabilitation Hospital. That means constantly improving the quality of our patient care, preparing for our future needs and managing the Medicare and Medicaid programs to ensure we can continue to meet the needs of the community.

Because the ACA included steep cuts in payments to hospitals from Medicare and Medicaid, I am deeply concerned about the access-to-care crisis that will result from Congressional inaction to restore this essential funding. If the law is repealed and Congress does not act to restore the cuts, it will cost U.S. hospitals more than $400 billion, on top of the $150 billion we’ve already shouldered in recent years because of other government actions.

As a result, many facilities — especially the community hospitals and clinics that more often cater to the needs of low-income and elderly patients — will be forced to shut their doors or stop providing certain specialty care like behavioral health or neonatal intensive care. These facilities will find it almost impossible to make ends meet since they receive about half of their funding from Medicare and Medicaid. Rural hospitals will be especially hard hit as well.

In every community where this happens, patients will lose access to the medical care they need.

For ongoing treatment, it means patients will need to travel farther for care. In emergency situations, it can mean the difference between life and death for patients who don’t have the time to travel long distances for acute injuries or illnesses. And, in many cases, these cuts could mean that good jobs, people’s livelihoods, will be at stake. This is as unacceptable as it is unnecessary.

At ValleyCare Health System of Ohio we will do our best to always meet the highest level of quality and maintain critical jobs, but Congress’s actions could handcuff our ability to protect this community.

If the ACA is going to be repealed, Congress must ensure hospitals are made whole and restore its deep Medicare cuts. Let’s make sure our Members of Congress keep their promise to protect Medicare — our community is counting on it.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.