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HAP, Rural Hospital Leaders Join Senator Casey to Discuss Importance of the ACA

October 21, 2020

On October 19, HAP and Pennsylvania hospital leaders participated in a media call with U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D) to discuss the impacts on rural health care if the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is overturned.

Joining Senator Casey on the call were HAP President and CEO Andy Carter, as well as:

  • Heather J. Smith, MBA, CHFP, CPPS, Chief Executive Officer, Conemaugh Meyersdale Medical Center
  • Loren L. Stone, MHA, FACHE, Chief Executive Officer, Endless Mountains Health Systems
  • Kirk Thomas, Chief Administrative Officer, Geisinger Western Region
  • Michael Makosky, FACHE, Chief Executive Officer, Fulton County Medical Center

The hospital leaders shared the critical importance of the ACA’s coverage expansion to their facilities and systems, and outlined the ways that the outright elimination of the entire law could jeopardize access to care for rural Pennsylvania.

Even with the ACA, rural hospitals still face significant financial challenges. If the ACA and Medicaid expansion are repealed, there will be insufficient funds to maintain the hospital infrastructure in rural America.

Speakers noted that the ACA has expanded access to affordable comprehensive health insurance coverage—and provided important consumer protections—for rural Pennsylvanians, helping them to manage chronic conditions, and access important preventive health care services. During 2020, residents of rural counties accounted for 23 percent of the state’s health care exchange enrollees (i.e., 76,973 people) and 24 percent of Pennsylvanians covered by Medicaid expansion during September 2020 (i.e., 205,858 people).

Additionally, the speakers underscored the ways that the COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the need for patients’ access to care and a strong health care delivery system. If the ACA is fully overturned, particularly in the wake of COVID-19, community health may suffer due to loss of insurance, unemployment, and loss of housing stability, and Pennsylvania’s rural hospitals will again bear the burden of providing significant levels of uncompensated care to their communities.

While hospitals applied extensive preparations and continued to deliver much needed care during this public health crisis, some hospitals now have been forced to make heartbreaking decisions––including layoffs and furloughs––to address immense financial challenges. Of Pennsylvania’s 48 rural counties, 16 (or 33%) have a hospital or health system as their single largest employer, and 40 (or 83%) have a hospital or health system within their top ten largest employers. These challenges will increase if the ACA is struck down and the number of uninsured Pennsylvanians skyrockets, causing hospitals to provide millions of dollars in uncompensated care.

HAP and the hospital community have long-supported the ACA’s coverage expansion and consumer protection provisions, and will continue to communicate its critical importance to communities across the commonwealth.

For more information, contact Laura Stevens Kent, HAP’s senior vice president, strategic integration, or Kate Slatt, vice president, innovative payment and care delivery.