WBMC’s Phillips discusses local impact of ACA
by Jennifer Cohron
Feb 05, 2014 | 1060 views | 0 0 comments | 43 43 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Bob Phillips, administrator of Walker Baptist Medical Center, made a case for expanding Medicaid in Alabama during a presentation to the Rotary Club of Jasper on Tuesday.

Gov. Robert Bentley has said repeatedly that he will not accept federal money available under the Affordable Care Act to expand the program, which currently has approximately 1 million people on the rolls.

Phillips cited a study done at the University of Alabama at Birmingham which found that the economic benefits would more than cover the cost of expansion, and the state would net approximately $900 million over six years.

Phillips said that money would be helpful to Alabama’s hospitals, more than half of which already had negative operating margins before implementation of the ACA began.

“From a Alabama hospital perspective and a Walker Baptist perspective, we feel that Medicaid expansion is a positive thing for us. It helps us continue to provide the services we already provide and expand them to other folks who aren’t receiving that healthcare right now,” he said.

Phillips said the Baptist Health System has spent more than $152 million on uncompensated care since 2008.

Under the ACA, that number was supposed to be reduced by insuring more people through exchanges and Medicaid with the revenue from additional fees levied on hospitals and cutting payments for some medical services.

Phillips said the reality is that Alabama’s hospitals are facing $3.9 billion in federal cuts over the next eight years without the revenue the state would receive by expanding Medicaid.

The negative impact of the ACA on Walker Baptist is expected to be $40 million between now and 2022, according to Phillips.

Bentley argued in his recent State of the State address that the Medicaid program makes up 35 percent of the state’s General Fund and would take away even more dollars for education if it were expanded to include more people.

Phillips pointed out that Alabama’s eligibility levels are among the most stringent in the country and only covers minimum services.

He said 38 percent of children in the state and two thirds of nursing home patients depend on Medicaid.

As a result, rural hospitals depend heavily on payments from the program to keep their doors open.

At WBMC, nearly 75 percent of deliveries and the care of approximately 18 percent of all patients is paid for by Medicaid.

“Medicaid is not as good in terms of reimbursement as Medicare or Blue Cross, but it’s better than nothing, and it’s a good thing for those folks because it provides some safety net,” Phillips said.

Phillips said officials within the Baptist Health System support state legislation passed in 2013 that will significantly reform Medicaid.

However, expanding Medicaid would benefit an additional 300,000 residents who are currently uninsured.

It would also help hospitals by minimizing the effects of taxes, fees and reduction in payments under the ACA.

Phillips added that without expansion, millions of Alabama tax dollars will be spent in states that did choose to expand Medicaid.

“It’s a challenge. There are a lot of politics that go into this sort of thing ... But we are where we are and it’s implemented now, so my perspective as a hospital administrator is that our state would be well-served to expand and take advantage of the monies that are available,” Phillips said.