7.16.19 / Updates

Rural Hospital Administrator: Government Insurance System ‘Will Make Our Challenges Even Greater’

WASHINGTON – In an op-ed published by the Morning Consult, J.W. Cowan, administrator for Choctaw General Hospital in Butler, Alabama, warns that “new government insurance systems being proposed by some national leaders — such as ‘Medicare for All,’ Medicare buy-in, or public option systems — will make our challenges even greater.”  He writes:

For rural facilities, the stakes could not be higher. In less than 10 years, my home state of Alabama has seen the closure of six of its rural hospitals.  Eighty-eight percent of the state’s rural hospitals are operating at a loss, and there are more rural hospital closures expected in the state.  In fact, 50 percent of Alabama’s remaining rural hospitals are at risk of closing.
 
Throughout America, our rural hospitals are struggling.  A recent report found that over one-fifth of the country’s rural hospitals are at high risk of closing, putting patients and local economies in danger.  As presidential candidates and lawmakers in Congress debate the future of health care in our nation, it is critical that they focus on policies that will help rural patients and communities, not put our hospitals and care at even greater risk.
 
It’s clear that more must be done to increase access to affordable, quality health care to all Americans, but a one-size-fits-all government system such as Medicare for All is the wrong approach and would only exacerbate the financial struggles rural hospitals face today.
 
Under such a system, hospitals would see their payments cut to levels insufficient to cover the cost of providing care, with experts warning, “some hospitals, especially struggling rural centers, would close virtually overnight,” and as some hospitals attempt to offset these steep cuts, they could be forced to do away with important services like mental health.  This would affect patients’ access to and quality of care as they endure longer wait times or travel longer distances to find the health care services they need.
 
Remember this fact when the folks promoting these government-run insurance systems claim that you could keep your preferred hospitals and physicians.
 
… And lawmakers shouldn’t be fooled by more moderate-sounding proposals such as “Medicare buy-in” or a “public option,” as these plans feature the same debilitating cuts to hospitals and are stepping stones to a one-size-fits-all system run by Washington, with all the same negative consequences to patients and hospitals.
 
That point is underscored by studies on “public option” proposals.  One study found that such systems could produce layoffs and “potentially force the closure of essential hospitals.”  Another study explained that reimbursing hospitals at the proposed lower rates “would compound financial stresses they are already facing, potentially impacting access to care and provider quality.”

To read Cowan’s full op-ed at the Morning ConsultCLICK HERE.

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