healthcare leaders talk future of Obamacare

Local leaders in the healthcare industry, especially hospitals, are keeping a close eye on talks surrounding the possible repeal of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare

John Gizdic, president and CEO of New Hanover Regional Medical Center, said leaders at the hospital are paying close attention to those national conversations. Initially when ACA started, he said the hospital saw a positive movement.

Siemers and Gizdic
Tom Siemers Dosher Memorial Hospital president and CEO(Left),John Gizdic, president and CEO of New Hanover Regional Medical Center(Right)

More people signed up for coverage which lessened the burden for the free care the hospital was dishing out annually.

This led to patients going to the hospital to get care when they needed it, instead of putting off care until they were beyond help or in a serious situation.

Several years into ACA Gizdic said there was a flip in the positive effect. Suddenly sicker patients started to sign up and less healthy patients signed on as premiums skyrocketed.

Some hospitals across the country saw a decrease in their bad debt, or unpaid hospital bills, as more patients were covered, relieving the financial burden on hospitals to care for them. But Dosher Memorial Hospital president and CEO Tom Siemers said Dosher actually experienced an increase in bad debt after the ACA.

The inception of ACA did not have much effect on the patients that come to Dosher. Instead what the hospital really needed it never got. Had the state expanded Medicaid, patients who were self-paid and did not qualify for Medicaid could have been covered, he said. Gizdic and Siemers both stated the more people with coverage, the better off the hospital is for multiple reasons.

“If the Affordable Care Act under the Trump administration encourages or shifts and allows for states to expand Medicaid, that would have a significant impact on our hospital,” Siemers said.

Siemers is hoping for a change from the top down in regards to behavioral health. Currently when a mental health patient, particularly someone who may harm themselves or others, is admitted, Siemers said the hospital pays sitters to sit with those patients. Costs for that expense have increased 50 percent in the last few years. Emergency rooms are clogged with these behavioral issues as well.

“This is one of the biggest issues ACA didn’t answer and we are crossing our fingers the Trump administration will,” Siemers said.

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