December 19, 2014

Medicaid expansion could help cover uncompensated costs (AUDIO)

Bruce Rieker answers questions during news conference.

An official with the Nebraska Hospital Association says expanding Medicaid would help offset the uncompensated care hospitals provide each year as well as improve the health of Nebraskans.

Vice President for Advocacy, Bruce Rieker, outlined the costs hospitals in the state have had to bear and how expanding Medicaid can help during a news conference at the Capitol organized by Nebraska Appleseed.

Rieker said that at present one in eight Nebraskans are eligible for Medicaid. Studies indicate that would drop to one in five if Medicaid is expanded under provisions of the federal healthcare law. It would also bring in more revenue for Nebraska hospitals.

“So, we have a very vested interest in this, but I also want to preface this to say that our perspective on Medicaid expansion is not that it’s going to be a financial windfall for us, but it’s the right thing to do and that we need to pursue this methodically,” Rieker said.

Nebraska spends approximately $1.6 billion a year on its Medicaid program. The state pays 45% of that cost, or about $700 million. About 40% of the Medicaid dollars that flow to Nebraska flow to its hospitals.

The Nebraska Hospital Association reports annual net patient revenue of $4.9 billion. Hospitals in the state absorb $890 million in uncompensated care. Care given to those who cannot pay and bad debt both are included in that figure. The association also includes what it considers the “undercompensated” care provided by Medicare and Medicaid. Compensation from the federal Medicare program falls 13% short of actual cost, according to the association, with the state-run Medicaid program falling 26% short.

“So, we have to find someone within the system to help pay for that,” Rieker said. “$890 million is roughly 18% of our net patient revenue. That’s how much we’re looking to other payers to pay for this, already.”

Rieker says expanding Medicaid would only offset some of the loss from uncompensated care. He asserts that expanding Medicaid and placing more of an emphasis on prevention would greatly improve the health of Nebraskans.

AUDIO: News conference with advocates of the federal healthcare law organized by Nebraska Appleseed [30:40]