The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

State News

May 5, 2013

'Safety net' hospitals watching health law impact

FORT WAYNE, Ind. — Indiana hospitals that serve as safety nets for the poor and uninsured say they're waiting to see what impact the federal health care overhaul has on their bottom lines.

The law will give more people access to insurance when it takes effect Jan. 1. But hospitals say uncertainty over whether Indiana will expand Medicaid services makes it hard to know what to expect.

The U.S. Supreme Court has said states can decide whether to expand Medicaid. Many states have declined to do so.

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence has said he wants to use the state's Healthy Indiana Plan to serve those covered by Medicaid. The state is still awaiting word from the federal government on whether that will be possible.

Over the next decade, safety net hospitals will bear the brunt of cuts in "disproportionate share payments," money that the federal government sends hospitals that cover a high level of uninsured patients. The amount is scheduled to drop about $30 billion.

The hospitals also could lose part of their Medicare payments based on the quality of care they provide and to patient satisfaction rankings.

Eric Looper, CEO of St. Joseph Hospital in Fort Wayne, said adding coverage for previously uninsured residents could generate more income for all health care providers. But he said safety-net hospitals remain concerned over what lies ahead under the health law.

"What's unclear right now is the impact newly insured patients will have on the system and how many people will actually be insured," Looper told The Journal Gazette  in an email.

"What we're dealing with is a moving target, so determining how we will need to adapt won't be completely clear until more concrete information is available," he said.

Looper noted that any funding cuts hurt the hospitals because their resources are limited.

"Funding cuts make it more difficult for us to expand services to meet the ever-changing needs of Fort Wayne," he said.



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