Local hospitals say health law should stay

Several local health care providers expressed concern Tuesday over the future of the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare.

Repeal of the Affordable Care Act “would have a negative impact on the financial viability of the hospital,” said Paul Summers, chief executive of UHS Delaware Valley Hospital in Walton.

Without health care legislation “we would see more people coming into our emergency room with no insurance,” said Summers. “That would affect our bottom line.”

Summers said 10 of the hospital’s 25 beds are devoted to drug and alcohol treatment. The hospital may be forced to eliminate the program if Medicaid is cut, he said.

Summers is not alone in voicing concerns. Andrew Manzer runs day-to-day operations at this area’s largest regional health care network.

“Hospitals and health systems across New York state are already in a vulnerable position,” said Manzer, chief operating officer of Bassett Healthcare Network.

Area hospitals “struggle to adjust to declining reimbursement, and changing payment models,” said Manzer. “A repeal without meaningful replacement is not a solution. Any replacement plan needs to assure meaningful access to care.”

The six hospitals in the Bassett network are A.O. Fox Hospital in Oneonta, Bassett Medical Center in Cooperstown, O’Connor Hospital in Delhi, Tri-Town Regional Hospital in Sidney, Cobleskill Regional Hospital in Cobleskill, and Little Falls Hospital in Little Falls.

Any Medicaid cuts would also affect UHS Chenango Memorial Hospital in Norwich.

In Chenango County, Medicaid pays for a third of all emergency room visits and outpatient surgeries and two-thirds of nursing home bills, according to statistics compiled by Healthcare Association of New York State (HANYS) and provided by a hospital spokesman.

Frances Wright, director of the Otsego County Office for the Aging, said any Medicaid cuts would hurt the elderly and disabled in the county.

“It is unsettling to think there would be major cuts, and the problem is that we don’t have clear details on what it means,” said Wright.

But not all health care experts believe Congress will be able to find the votes to undo Obamacare and cut Medicaid.

“I think the bigger story is that repeal is not going to happen,” said Dr. William Streck, former chief executive of Bassett Healthcare Network and now chief innovation officer at HANYS.

Streck gives credit to activists for informing Congress and the public about the danger of repealing Obamacare. “The failure of the Senate bill is a result of activists like AARP and major insurers.”

It’s now up to Congress to find a consensus on health care.

Rep. John Faso, R-Columbia County, voted for the House bill that would have repealed and replace Obamacare had the Senate approved it. He said that if the Senate failed to pass a repeal and replace bill, Congress would need to work on a bi-partisan solution.

“We have to find the pieces where we can get Democrats and Republicans to agree on how we fix the flaws that are roiling the insurance market,” said Faso during a speech earlier this month to a meeting of the Delaware County Chamber of Commerce. 

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