Sen. Van Hollen: Repealing Affordable Care Act Could Negatively Impact Rural Hospitals

He says GOP must provide a replacement before voting down the Affordable Care Act.


Washington DC (KM)  The Affordable Care Act has helped 1.7-million Americans in rural areas get access to health care through the purchase of private, subsidized coverage through government operated exchanges last year, according to Maryland Senator Chris Van Hollen. But he says that could be lost if Republicans who control both the House of Representatives and the Senate repeal that law.

President-elect Donald Trump and many Republicans who ran for office last year promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare,” if they were elected.

Van Hollen says hospitals received fee-for-service payments and that encouraged them to admit as many patients as possible. But the Affordable Care Act changed that. “They changed the incentives to keep people healthier and make sure hospitals did not lose a lot of resources simply because people were not coming into them day in an day out,” he says.

“Obviously, hospitals in urban areas get a lot more people coming in than out. Whereas in rural areas, they need that additional help and support that the Affordable Care Act provides in order to sustain their operations,” he said.

Two rural hospitals in Maryland say they  could be negatively impacted if the Affordable Care Act is repealed with nothing to replace it. Van Hollen included comments from their executives in a statement from his office. The first comes from Barry P. Ronan, President and CEO of Western Maryland Health System in Cumberland. “The repeal of the Affordable Care Act would be detrimental to all hospitals in Maryland, but especially rural America. In 2010, Western Maryland Health System and other rural-based hospitals in Maryland transformed to value-based care delivery  and have been committed to improving the health and well-being of people in the communities we  serve. This change in care delivery has had an amazing impact on our patients, particularly those with multiple co-morbidities. We have not only provided a better quality of life for these patients, but we are also reaching their adult children, who could easily become the diabetics and heart patients of the future.”

The second set of comments comes from Mark Boucot, President and CEO of Garrett Regional Health System in Oakland. “Repealing the ACA without a cogent replacement plan will be detrimental to millions of citizens, potentially leaving them without health insurance. In the current fee  for service environment, hospitals are closing at a record rate in rural America due to financial pressures in the current system. In Maryland, however, global budgets have liberated hospitals from pursuing financial security. Rather, we are able to strive toward value-driven, person-centered approaches in delivering effective patient care.”

“It’s not only the 30-million people who get their health care through the Affordable Care Act Exchanges or extended Medicaid. It’s really the whole system that will be put into chaos,” says Senator Van Hollen.

Late Wednesday and early Thursday, the US Senate approved a resolution to fast track the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Van Hollen says he offered an amendment that would protect rural hospitals, but that failed. “They’ve {Republicans in Congress} been saying for six years they want to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. But so far they’re charging ahead with destroying it and have nothing to put in its place which would have devastating consequences throughout Maryland, throughout the country,” he says.

By Kevin McManus