One of the unintended consequences of the legal battle over the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, better known as “Obamacare,” is that indigent care may become even more expensive for the nation’s public hospitals.
The National Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems wrote this week that when Obamacare was negotiated in Congress, hospitals and hospital associations agreed to a decrease in “disproportionate share hospital” payments in exchange for a mandate that all states expand the pool of Medicaid-eligible residents.
When the U.S. Supreme Court struck down that mandate in June, public hospitals lost the balance they had sought to keep an even keel in the coming rush of patients expected when Obamacare takes full affect in 2014. With Congress unlikely to alter the law before the end of this year, hospitals that serve many low-income patients will have to somehow cut costs further or seek creative ways to fund hospital services and staff, the association wrote.
On the positive side, communities with existing physician shortages may have additional opportunities available when health professional shortage area medically underserved area designations are in place. With a federally recognized shortage designation, communities can seek student loan repayments for physicians, Medicare bonuses on professional and surgical components and apply for grants with a medical need already demonstrated and proven.