February 27, 2017

ICYMI: North Country Health Care Providers Warn of Harmful Impact of Potential ACA Repeal

WASHINGTON – Last week, Senators Jeanne Shaheen, Maggie Hassan, and Representative Annie Kuster met with health care providers from the North Country who told them about the harmful impact that repealing the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid expansion would have on access to affordable health care and New Hampshire’s efforts to combat the heroin, opioid, and fentanyl crisis.

InDepthNH covered the discussion where the health care providers told the delegation that “If the Affordable Care Act is repealed without an adequate replacement, it would be a disaster for many in the North Country,” and “thousands would lose health care and hospitals and clinics would have higher costs that would reduce services and require layoffs.”

See below for excerpts or click here for the full story:

If the Affordable Care Act is repealed without an adequate replacement, it would be a disaster for many in the North Country, seven healthcare officials told Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan and Rep. Annie Kuster.

Thousands would lose health care and hospitals and clinics would have higher costs that would reduce services and require layoffs, members of the Congressional delegation was told at a roundtable discussion Friday.

… The North Country officials said there could be improvements to the ACA, which is tied to the Medicaid expansion in New Hampshire. But even in their existing form, the two programs have been a great help to people struggling to make a living.

“We have a tendency to think about those on Medicaid as poor people who are unemployed when in fact many, many, many are people who are working more than one job,” said Ken Gordon, the chief executive officer of Coos County Family Health Services.

… One benefit has been that people with pre-existing health problems have finally been able to get health insurance, said Nancy Frank, the executive director of the North Country Health Consortium.  

… Robitaille told the delegation members about meeting with a man whose employer fired him shortly after he learned the man had terminal cancer. The man contended he was fired because the employer was worried that the company’s insurance premiums would increase.

… The ACA has also meant people have been able to get preventive health care that would avoid a serious and more expensive problem later, said Michael Peterson, the president of the Androscoggin Valley Hospital.

Without that preventive care people wait “to the last minute to come see us in the emergency room,” he said. “That’s bad for the patient and means the hospital winds up footing the bill.”

… He said if the ACA and Medicaid expansion are eliminated and not adequately replaced, it would cost Androscoggin Valley Hospital about $3.7 million each year.

… A wide range of services would be trimmed or eliminated and it would probably be impossible to hire doctors, he said. Instead there would be a shift towards nurse practitioners.

… Before the ACA and Medicaid expansion, there was a desperate financial struggle to help everyone who needed it, said Kristy Letendre, the director of The Friendship House in Bethlehem, which deals with substance abuse 

The ACA and Medicaid expansion were “the light at the end of the tunnel for the population that I serve,” she said. “The impact is huge when you are talking about my program. And our survival really depends on this population having access to this insurance.”

… Hassan said this is a crucial issue.

“Yes, there are improvements that we need to make to the ACA but to pull out the rug right now would just be truly destabilizing and truly catastrophic for a lot of the people in this state,” Hassan said.

Hassan told InDepthNH.org that the key to saving the programs will be people and businesses telling their elected officials nationwide how they have been helped by the programs.

“You just keep trying to make the case,” she said.

Shaheen said she hopes the Congressional leadership will realize that the situation is more complicated than they thought and that they can’t repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with something that is both better and less expensive.

“So, I am hopeful that at some point we will get to the place where we will work together to make changes and improvements rather than repealing it, but we are not there yet,” Shaheen said 

Kuster said the election is over and it is time for some across-the-aisle cooperation in Congress.

“We’re all Americans. We’ve got to have a conversation about how to take care of our families, our friends, our neighbors, people down the street…because we are all in this together,” she said.