BRADENTON – Hospitals in states that have expanded Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act have experienced a significant decrease in the volume of uninsured patients treated and the amount of free care provided in the first quarter of 2014, according to a new study released this week by the Colorado Hospital Association.
Based on data from 465 hospitals in 30 states (15 of which expanded Medicaid and 15 that did not), the report concluded that states who did expand their Medicaid program to cover more patients saw charity care cost per hospital decrease from $2.8 million to $1.9 million.
In states that didn't expand Medicaid, hospitals saw an increase in charity care from $3.8 million to $4.2 million, with the proportion of Medicaid and self-paying patients remaining the same. By expanding Medicaid to include those making up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level, states with expansion saw an average increase of 29 percent in Medicaid cases, which could reduce health care costs by reducing the levels of uncompensated care, according to Steven Summer, president and CEO of the Colorado Hospital Association.
The report also showed that the majority of new enrollees under the new eligibility requirements are previously uninsured residents, as opposed to patients who dropped private insurance once they became eligible for expansion.
26 states across the U.S. voluntarily opted into the Medicaid expansion program, which the federal government will fund fully through 2016 and fund at least 90 percent of thereafter. Studies have consistently shown that the cost savings, including ending overlapping state and local programs that currently cover many of those who would be covered in the expansion, would make up more than the 10 percent portion left after 2016.
It is estimated that 5.7 million of the country’s poorest residents have been left uninsured by the 24 states, including Florida, that have not expanded their Medicaid plans. Manatee County is currently looking for a way to fund indigent care that has been funded by a declining corpus created when it sold its county hospital in the early '80s. That fund is set to expire in 2015. One year ago, the county tried unsuccessfully to pass a half-cent sales tax referendum in order to maintain the status quo beyond that date.
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