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March 20, 2013

Hospital execs: Expanded coverage is a good thing

It’s clear that low-income, working Hoosiers without health insurance and Indiana’s economy as a whole would benefit from expanding coverage. 

Whether it is through the Healthy Indiana Plan or under the Medicaid provisions under health reform, we cannot wait to act. A recent report from the Center for Health Policy at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) states that Indiana has the opportunity to cover more than 400,000 uninsured by leveraging more than $10 billion in federal funding through 2020. 

Federal funding could generate up to $3.4 billion in new economic activity in the state through 2020. Not only would more Hoosiers have health care coverage, but also the boost in economic activity could result in at least $108 million in additional state and local tax revenue each year and support more than 30,000 jobs. 

Today, Indiana hospitals employ 126,000 people, representing nearly $8 billion in wages and benefits. For example, Clark Memorial Hospital and Floyd Memorial Hospital and Health Services are the two largest health systems in Southern Indiana and the largest employer in their respective counties. Together they have a combined 3,860 employees, and hospital employees in Indiana earn nearly 20 percent more than the average salaried worker does.

Perhaps the most important element of the UNMC study is the impact on insurance premiums for Hoosiers with private health coverage. Reducing the number of uninsured would represent a significant first step in reducing insurance premiums paid by Indiana businesses and their employees, as well as people purchasing insurance on their own. Coverage expansion is estimated to reduce the cost of insurance for individuals by $236 and families by $677 annually, beginning in 2014.

In 2012, Clark Memorial had $38 million and Floyd Memorial had $37 million in charity care and bad debt. Statewide this cost is $3 billion. Patients without coverage often have no other avenue but the emergency room for basic care. Hospitals treat complex, chronic conditions at great economic and social cost, and we must encourage preventative care and early treatment if we are to bend the health care cost curve in the long run.

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