Medicaid Non-Expansion Affects Hospitals
A recently-released study conducted by Georgetown University highlights the impact of Medicaid expansion – or lack thereof – on hospitals that provide a significant level of care to low-income and uninsured patients. Representatives of three area hospitals discussed the study with the Quill, affirming its findings that Missouri’s non-expansion status is leaving hospitals in difficult financial straits.
Searing and Hodley noticed during the course of their interviews that safety net providers are seeing fewer uninsured patients in states that have expanded Medicaid coverage, with officials in different medical facilities reporting drops of 15 to 34 percent in total numbers of patients without insurance seeking care. Conversely, an official in a non-expansion state said the number of uninsured patients had risen by 11 percent.
“As a rural hospital, we have a higher percentage of people who can’t pay,” said Joleen Durham, public relations spokeswoman for Texas County Memorial Hospital in a phone interview with the Quill. She added that 15 percent of patients’ bills are written off due to their inability to pay. Last year, she said, the hospital performed $5.5 million worth of uncompensated care, much of which was racked up in the form of expensive emergency room visits.
Gay Stover, Executive Director of Marketing and Public Relations at Ozarks Medical Center, agreed that expansion is crucial. “OMC has participated in numerous activities over the last three years to lobby for Medicaid expansion, due to the fact that there are so many residents in our service are affected,” she said.
“Expansion would mean that they could access the care they need, visit the doctor for office visits and screenings instead of putting off care until their health is bad enough to go to the emergency department.”
“The ER is the only way [some patients] have to go and get care,” said Durham, noting that many patients, due to limited transportation in a rural area, finances, or lack of insurance, struggle to see a primary care physician and resort to hospital emergency departments for non-emergency care.
“Our hospitals in rural Missouri, especially in south-central Missouri, we are all experiencing the most pain,” said Durham. “There are state studies to show that we have the highest need.”
In fact, said David Steinmann, administrator for Mercy St. Francis Hospital in Mountain View, there are 200,000 more Missourians yet who could have better access to healthcare – particularly preventative care – if the gap is closed.
Read more from West Plains Daily Quill here.