Local rural hospitals watch health care bill closely

LANSING, Mich (WLNS) – As a Senate vote on the Republican replacement health care plan looms, one local rural hospital spoke out against the proposed rollbacks to Obama-era Medicaid expansion.

The Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) is expected to affect states that expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, including Michigan.

William Roeser, CEO of Ionia County Sparrow Health Care, said the Medicaid expansion helped the hospital stay afloat, and the possible rollbacks concern him.

“The Medicaid expansion was good for us because it gave us some funding for the patients we were already taking care of that previously we hadn’t gotten anything for,” Roeser said. “We’re all pretty anxious primarily about the changes in the Medicaid expansion because that would negatively affect most of the small hospitals in the rural areas.”

The bill wouldn’t cut Medicaid spending in real dollars, it would slow the rate of spending, phasing out extra money the federal government gave to most states under the Affordable Care Act.

In states like Michigan, where Medicaid coverage was expanded, the state would have to either come up with more money to cover the funding it’s losing, or cut benefits and enrollment. Roeser said this could put rural hospitals in an especially difficult situation.

“They’ll still receive service we provide the service whether we get paid or not,” Roeser said. “It’s a financial issue for the hospital that if we don’t get any payment for it we’re going to have to make it up somewhere else or reduce service somewhere else.”

Sparrow runs four rural health clinics in Ionia County, and about a third of its patients are Medicaid recipients. Roeser said its emergency department sees about 5 to 10 thousand Medicaid beneficiaries a year, and the uncertainty surrounding the GOP health care plan is what concerns him.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty about the status of the bills coming out of Washington, so we don’t really know what specifically is going to happen,” Roeser said.

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