The Herald Bulletin

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March 22, 2010

Locals react to health care reform

Hospitals take opposing views on bill’s passage

ANDERSON, Ind. — Local reaction to Congress’ health care overhaul was mixed on Monday as those for and against government involvement in health care weighed the risks of such an undertaking.

While St. Vincent Health was pleased to see the health care bill pass Sunday, Community Hospital had reservations about the monumental passage.

Community Hospital CEO and President Bill VanNess said the effects of the bill could make it difficult for hospitals to keep their doors open under the strain of increased patients and decreased funding.

“It will put tremendous stress on the systems,” he said.

VanNess said examining Massachusetts, where state-run health care is mandated, helps providers predict the impact of health care reform.

“They don’t have enough hospital beds. If you have primary care physician, the average wait is nine months,” he said.

VanNess said Massachusetts also demonstrates that cost estimates in health care can be incorrect.

“Costs increased four times over the prediction. They had to raise taxes,” he said. “It really hurt them from an economic standpoint.”

With at least 95 percent of the country promised health care coverage similar to that of Medicare under the new plan, VanNess worries that hospitals can expect more of the same from Medicare payments.

VanNess said hospitals are currently paid 6 to 12 percent less than the cost of providing care for Medicare patients.

In the current system, those with employer-provided coverage foot the bill for the difference.

“Historically, we charged people with insurance coverage higher prices to compensate for Medicare and Medicaid,” VanNess said.

Under the new health care bill, “premiums will have to go up,” he said.

Katie Humphreys of St. Vincent Health, corporate owner of Saint John’s Health System in Anderson and St. Vincent Mercy Hospital in Elwood, said the company supports the reform.

“We believe health reform was necessary. We had a commitment for 100 percent access and 100 percent coverage.”

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