Peter Hofstetter: Restore hospital Medicare payments with ACA repeal
In the new year, Congress and President Trump have promised to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). If they are successful, it is imperative they restore critical Medicare payments to hospitals and clinics to replace cuts embedded in the ACA and which are so important to caregivers in Oregon. If this does not happen, it will create major obstacles to people seeking care, including the poor, disabled and elderly, and especially those in rural areas.
As a hospital administrator with 32 years experience in the health care industry, I am responsible for running the day-to-day operations at Willamette Valley Medical Center (WVMC). That means constantly improving the quality of our patient care, preparing for our future needs, and managing the Medicare and Medicaid programs to ensure we can continue to meet the needs of the community. Because the ACA included steep cuts in payments to hospitals from Medicare and Medicaid, I am deeply concerned about the access-to-care crisis that will result from Congressional inaction to restore this essential funding. If the law is repealed and Congress does not act to restore the payments, it will cost U.S. hospitals more than $400 billion, on top of the $150 billion we’ve already shouldered in recent years because of other government actions.
As a result, many facilities — especially the community hospitals and clinics that more often cater to the needs of low-income and elderly patients — will be forced to shut their doors or stop providing certain specialty care, like behavioral health or neonatal intensive care. It is important to note that Willamette Valley Medical Center is strong. But while we are able to continue to invest in our community and facility, many others in our state cannot.
It is imperative that all hospitals across our state remain strong and appropriately funded to meet the needs of the people we serve. These facilities will find it almost impossible to make ends meet since they receive about half their funding from Medicare and Medicaid. Rural hospitals will be especially hard hit.
In every community where this happens, patients will lose access to the medical care they need. For ongoing treatment, it means patients will need to travel farther for care. In emergency situations, it can mean the difference between life and death for patients who don’t have the time to travel long distances for acute injuries or illnesses. And, in many cases, these cuts could mean that good jobs, people’s livelihoods, will be at stake.
This is as unacceptable as it is unnecessary. At WVMC we will do our best to always meet the highest level of quality and maintain critical jobs, but Congress’s actions could handcuff our ability to protect this community.
If the ACA is going to be repealed, Congress must ensure hospitals are made whole and restore its deep Medicare cuts. Let’s make sure our members of Congress keep their promise to protect Medicare — our community is counting on it.