The past few days we’ve seen some interesting healthcare stories that are worth mentioning because in some measure they affect Community Health Centers and the patients they serve.
First, in Texas the primary care funding cliff again garnered headlines, with Liz Trevino, CEO with North Texas Area Community Health Centers, describing to Public News Service how many clinics would see funding declines of up to 70 percent if the Congress failed to act before the funding expires next year. Trevino said, “The Texas decision not to expand Medicaid and not close the coverage gap left more than one-million uninsured who would have been able to enroll in coverage,” says Trevino. “So we’re treating that growing number of uninsured patients, but we won’t be able to do that if we don’t have the funding next year.”
Some 24 states have followed Texas in choosing not to expand Medicaid, and not only are they facing higher numbers of uninsured but also higher unpaid bills at hospitals. The Huffington Post cites a report issued by the Department of Health and Human Services which shows that hospitals in the expansion states and the District of Columbia “will see $4.2 billion less in unpaid bills and charity care, a decrease of one-quarter. In the other states, the decline will be just $1.5 billion, or 9 percent.” [see story] We also note that the stakes are high health centers. Over 36 percent of health center patients are uninsured nationwide, but in non-expansion states 41 percent of health center patients are uninsured and will continued to need care at a considerable cost.
Also, relating to developments in Medicaid, Indiana University School of Medicine professor Aaron Carroll recently explained in the New York Times Blog “The Upshot” how federal regulators are now lifting a prohibition on asking people to pay premiums for Medicaid. His conclusion:
“Cost-sharing mechanisms are specifically intended to encourage people to consume less health care… a large body of research shows that increased cost-sharing leads to decreased utilization.”
Carroll also cites studies which demonstrated that cost-sharing premiums among those who can least afford them can discourage them from obtaining insurance and healthcare.
Stay tuned as we keep you posted on the latest news and happenings about health centers and the patients they serve.