These initiatives are part of an integrated system that safety net hospitals provide to all members of their communities every day. And these programs are why we care passionately about the Supreme Court's decision.
It's no secret that safety net hospitals strongly support the Affordable Care Act—including the individual mandate, which will expand insurance coverage to millions of Americans, and the expansion of the Medicaid program. While an insurance card doesn't clear emergency rooms overnight or miraculously manage chronic diseases, it does begin to change the way we experience healthcare.
Health reform focuses on wellness and prevention, which is a shift in how care is delivered. More individuals and families will be connected to primary care. Hospitals can help patients beyond discharge by ensuring needed prescriptions are taken and necessary follow-up appointments are scheduled and attended. Ultimately, reform will help all Americans access the services they need.
But health reform without increased coverage to manage illness and care is all talk, with little left to deliver. Safety net hospitals already operate on extremely thin margins. Without expanded insurance coverage, our already stressed healthcare system has insufficient resources to provide preventive care, manage disease and drive down readmissions.
The reality of this outcome is that patients—particularly minority and lower-income patients who often rely on safety net hospitals for their care—will suffer.
So, now we wait. It's halftime in the Supreme Court, and we've got at least two months of commercials and expert analysis to sit through before we know how this legislation will fare. I don't know what the result will be, and I won't venture a guess. But I do know that the outcome on this court has much greater consequences than Kentucky's 67–59 win over Kansas.
Make no mistake. Safety net hospitals will continue to care for all patients, those with insurance and those without. But the Supreme Court's ruling can help strengthen that care, and as a result, our nation's health. <<
-Dr. Bruce Siegel
President and CEO of the National Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems