“Safety net” hospitals got their name for a reason. They are often the only health care option – emergency or otherwise – for the nation’s uninsured and underinsured.
These hospitals, which often are located in underserved communities, face challenges facilities in higher-income neighborhoods do not.
That’s why it would be bad healthcare policy – and bad economic policy – to cut the federal goverment’s support for those hospitals by $8 billion in the coming year.
“If the proposed cuts go into effect, rural and urban safety net hospitals will lose critical funding that enables them to keep their doors open and treat the most vulnerable Americans,” members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation wrote in a letter to House leadership this week.
The cuts are mandated by a provision in the Affordable Care Act, which Congress assumed would lower uncompensated care costs as more Americans gained health insurance coverage.
That, however, has yet to happen, and many safety-net hospitals are still struggling as the country emerges from the three-year COVID-19 pandemic.
Many of the hospitals – including Lawrence General, Salem Hospital, Holy Family Hospital in Methuen and Anna Jaques Hospital in Newburyport — rely on Medicaid reimbursements, which are typically lower than private insurance payments.
“In treating those who have nowhere else to turn, these hospitals incur significant uncompensated care costs,” the delegation said in its letter. “Furthermore, these same hospitals typically operate on very narrow, or even negative margins.”
The pandemic made it absolutely clear that these hospitals play a vital role in the health of their community. And Congress has delayed such funding cuts more than a dozen times since the Affordable Care Act was signed into law in 2010.
There’s no reason to harm local hospitals now.
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