NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Louisiana's hospital industry and others are anxious over how a bill by U.S. House Republicans to replace the current federal health care reform law will ultimately turn out.
Monday afternoon congressional analysts estimated that millions of Americans would lose coverage as early as next year, and that could send more Louisiana residents to hospital emergency rooms which is a costlier form of health care.
One part of the GOP's legislation would roll back Medicaid expansion, which is provided for in former President Barack Obama's signature law, the Affordable Care Act.
"The Medicaid Expansion will maintain until 2020," said Mark Diana of the Department of Global Management and Policy in Tulane's School of Public Health.
In Louisiana, over 400,000 residents benefit from Medicaid expansion, which took effect last July after Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards embraced it - something his predecessor would not do. The expansion benefits people who earn too much for conventional Medicaid insurance but too little to afford coverage on their own.
Diana said Medicaid expansion has benefited Louisiana hospitals.
"The Medicaid expansion has been a significant benefit, particularly to certain hospitals that have traditionally cared for uninsured or lower income patients - University Medical Center, for example. Other hospitals that don't have that high percentage of Medicaid patients won't be as negatively impacted," he said.
The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has projected that 14 million people would lose health coverage next year under the House bill, and that the number of uninsured would grow to 24 million by 2026. But the White House pushed back even before the CBO's estimate became public.
"The last time they did this they were wildly off, and the number keeps declining," said White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer.
The hospital industry in Louisiana signaled that there are a lot of unknowns.
Jennifer McMahon released a statement on behalf of the Louisiana Hospital Association and the Metropolitan Hospital Council of New Orleans:
"Congress needs to engage in a thoughtful and transparent process when it comes to big changes to our healthcare system. We need time to evaluate the bill's impact on our state and our hospitals. As lawmakers work to re-examine this law, patients and the caregivers who serve them across Louisiana are depending on Congress to make continued coverage a priority. Under the ACA, there have been significant investments in the healthcare of Louisianans that must be protected - 400,000 people covered through Medicaid expansion and 184,403 people covered through the exchanges."
LCMC Health, which operates Children's, Touro, West Jefferson Medical Center, University Medical Center and New Orleans East Hospital released the following:
"Although the healthcare landscape is constantly evolving, LCMC Health's mission and commitment to quality care remains unchanged. LCMC Health is closely monitoring proposed legislation related to the ACA and supports solutions that maintain the federal support and health care coverage for individuals that were granted coverage through Medicaid Expansion."
"Clearly the safety net hospitals in this state will see a negative impact of patients coming off of Medicaid," said Dr. Diana.
He is also concerned that the legislation being considered on Capitol Hill would get rid of the current mandate that most Americans have insurance while retaining protections for people with pre-existing illnesses.
"If only the people who are sick buy insurance, then costs will go through the roof, they will skyrocket," said Diana.
And under the current law, there are also cost-sharing subsidies designed to help the working poor with co-pays and other expenses. The proposed law would eliminate those subsidies.
"And one of the big problems that people had and still have was reduced by the Affordable Care Act is out-of-pocket costs," Diana further stated.