What happens when you provide an affordable option for health coverage to a lot of lower-income people? You don't have as many uninsured people being forced to use their only option—the emergency room. That's pretty obvious, but we're still in a political world where the obvious good of a thing like more health coverage for more people has to be spelled out. So here it is, in Arkansas.
Preliminary data from a survey of acute care hospitals in Arkansas suggests a dramatic decline in the number of uninsured patients hospitals are seeing since the enactment of the private option, Surgeon General Joe Thompson and Bo Ryall, president of the Arkansas Hospital Association, testified before a legislative subcommittee today. [...]That means, Surgeon General Thompson says, is that the state is "going in the right direction to improve the fiscal stability and well-being of our hospitals," not to mention the health and stability of the people who now have access to regular health care. Ryall added that the private option for Medicaid adopted by the state is saving hospitals: "Ryall noted rural hospital closings in Georgia and Alabama. 'We don't want to see that happen in Arkansas,' he said. 'We thank you as legislators for passing the private option. We think it's helping your constituents and helping your local hospitals.'" One hospital CEO backed that up in his testimony: "The difference between us being in the red and us being in the black is the private option," said Ron Peterson, CEO of Baxter Regional Medical Center.
Here are the three key statewide findings, comparing the first quarter of 2014 against the first quarter of 2013 […]:
* The total number of emergency department visits declined by 2 percent.
* Of those who did visit the emergency department, the number of uninsured patients was reduced by 24 percent.
* For people who required hospitalization, the number of uninsured patients was reduced by 30 percent.
That's not just an economic plus for the hospital, it's a boon for the local economy—in many rural areas the hospital and the schools are the biggest employers, and the Medicaid expansion doesn't just allow the hospital to continue to operate, it allows it to flourish, potentially creating even more jobs. All of which will make Republicans stick their fingers in their ears and sing "la-la-la-la."