Buoyed by reform ruling, hospitals push states to expand Medicaid

Following the Supreme Court 5-4 decision to uphold the individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act, hospitals are calling on states to expand Medicaid coverage under health reform, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Hospitals and providers were expecting millions of low-income and disabled patients to join Medicaid's ranks under health reform, but the court ruled that the federal government couldn't withhold all Medicaid funds to states that opt out of expanding coverage, potentially inhibiting participation.

"They will scream for this money because they would rather see more people covered under Obama's signature initiative than have bad debt," healthcare consultant and former lobbyist John Gorman said of state-level lobbying by hospitals and physicians, noted the WSJ.

Analysts are expecting hospitals and health centers to target ramped-up lobbying efforts to their states' Republican lawmakers, reported Kaiser Health News

Hospitals are calling for increased Medicaid coverage to ensure affordable and accessible healthcare for their most vulnerable patient populations.

"If a state chose not to participate in the expansion, the poorest of the poor would be impacted," Grady Health System CEO John M. Haupert told KHN.

Similarly, San Antonio's University Health System was looking for Medicaid expansion to cover many of its 54,000 uninsured residents, the Houston Chronicle noted. But if Texas opts out, UHS President George B. Hernández Jr. wants state lawmakers to at least give counties a local alternative expand the program themselves.

The CEO of University of Nebraska Medical Center Physicians in Omaha acknowledges that a larger Medicaid program would decrease Nebraska's uninsured population, but that expansion could come at a price, like reduced education funding or increased taxes.

"I'm certain nearly every hospital or physician or nursing home or home healthcare agency would tell you that they certainly would support having more and not fewer of their patients covered by health insurance," UNMC Physicians' Cory Shaw told the Associated Press. "But none of those decisions happen in a vacuum."

For more:
- read the WSJ article
- read the KHN article
- read the AP article
- here's the Houston Chronicle article

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