Hospitals in northern Michigan are bracing for the chance that fewer people will have health insurance in the future. One local hospital leader says that could lead to higher costs for everyone.
The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the Republican plan to replace the Affordable Care Act would reduce federal deficits by billions of dollars a year. But the same report also says the American Health Care Act would leave 14 million fewer people with health insurance in 2018.
In a letter to Rep. Jack Bergman (R-Watersmeet) last month, Munson Healthcare CEO Ed Ness wrote that the bill would have “a severe and negative impact on Munson Healthcare, our patients and our communities.”
Ness says that Medicaid expansion through the Affordable Care Act has covered around 37,000 people in the hospital’s region. But the Republicans’ American Health Care Act could lead to fewer people with coverage.
“Our concern is … that’s a great number of people that have the potential of losing coverage and going either uninsured or very much underinsured, which by all studies is not good for health care,” Ness says.
Ness says uninsured people tend to use the emergency room for primary care, which is expensive.
“We think actually not having insurance leads to higher costs,” Ness says, “because [uninsured people] come to the emergency room. They’re not insured. Frankly those costs are passed on to those who do have insurance.”
Rep. Bergman was not available for comment for this story.
Ness acknowledges that the Affordable Care Act is not without problems. He says some insurers have dropped out of the health insurance marketplace because it hasn’t been financially sustainable.
“Like anything, there’s opportunities for improvement,” Ness says.