A carefully negotiated deal between the nation's hospitals, a key senator and the White House is on life support after congressional actuaries estimated that about 25 million people would remain uninsured even under a reformed healthcare system.
Figures seen as raising 'major problem' for hospitals
In a letter released to Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), the Congressional Budget Office said that after 10 years, roughly 9% of the U.S. population—including those who are here illegally—would continue to go without coverage. Taken separately, the CBO predicts only 6% of actual U.S. citizens would remain uncovered.
Put another way, the Baucus reform blueprint would extend coverage to 91% of everyone living in the U.S. and 94% of the country's citizens. But the deal the hospitals cut in July was based on 94% of all residents, or 97% of citizens—several percentage points off the CBO's predictions.
“This is a major problem that has to be dealt with,” said Chip Kahn, president of the Federation of American Hospitals. The federation, along with the American Hospital Association and the Catholic Health Association, agreed to take $155 billion in payment cuts. Roughly $50 billion of that would come from federal subsidies that hospitals use to offset the amount of uncompensated care they incur each year.
The most recent CBO projections are relatively unchanged from earlier ones that also left the hospital sector unsettled.
“This is the most important issue for us,” Kahn said.
Kahn said the groups involved would continue to work with lawmakers to find ways to further extend coverage, though it's more likely such changes would come once the bill moves to the Senate floor.
One way to do so would be to increase the amount of federal subsidies the government plans to use to help make coverage more affordable, Kahn said.
What do you think? Post a comment on this article and share your opinion with other readers. Submit your comments to Modern Healthcare Online at [email protected]. Please be sure to include your hometown and state, along with your organization and title.
Send us a letter
Have an opinion about this story? Click here to submit a Letter to the Editor, and we may publish it in print.