Hospital association releases reports, says Medicaid expansion will help save rural hospitals

Updated: Feb. 7, 2019 at 3:28 PM CST
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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - The Crenshaw Community Hospital is in rural Alabama. The health care facility hopes every month it can at least break even.

“We’re just like every other rural health hospital. It’s a month to month, good month, bad month, but it’s starting to trend down,” said David Hughes, who is the Crenshaw Community Hospital CEO.

Hughes said the hospital is struggling because Medicaid reimbursement has been reduced, insurance reimbursement is reduced, and they treat several uninsured people.

“We’re hoping to expand Medicaid,” he said. “It would bring around a $68 million impact to the area and that’s big.”

The hospital is also competing against other, larger hospitals for nurses and doctors. Hughes said he is always looking for more nurses.

“They are able with their larger size to incentivize nurses and physicians to come to their facility, where we’re not able to do that,” he said. “We just can’t afford that.”

It’s stories like these the Alabama Hospital’s Association is echoing. They are an avid supporter of expanding Medicaid and said it will help keep rural hospitals in business. Alabama state leaders have not expanded since Obamacare passed in 2010.

Since 2011, six rural hospitals and six urban hospitals have closed down. The most recent closing is Regional Medical Center Jacksonville which closed in June of 2018.

“We will see more hospitals close in Alabama if things stay the same,” said Danne Howard, the executive vice president for the Alabama Hospital Association.

The association released two reports Friday, Feb. 1. It said the total economic impact from Medicaid expansion in Alabama would be around $2.7 billion in 2020.

The Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion eligibility include adults with family incomes less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level who are not currently eligible for Medicare or Medicaid.

The report says 220,000 Alabamians would gain health insurance through Medicaid Expansion.

Alabama is one of 14 states that have not expanded Medicaid. Gov. Kay Ivey released this statement after asking whether the state would consider expanding Medicaid. The governor has questioned in the past how the state would foot the bill to expand Medicaid.

“Before any decisions are made regarding additional services or adding people into the Medicaid program, we must weigh what is most beneficial for the people of Alabama and for the state as a whole. Adequate funding must be ensured to continue providing our current level of services.”

Sen. Del Marsh’s office responded, saying it’s “not happening.” Rep. Mac McCutcheon responded as well:

“The decision about whether to expand the Medicaid population in Alabama under provisions of the Affordable Care Act lies with the governor, not the Legislature. There is no doubt that the rural healthcare infrastructure in Alabama is under great strain, but, at the same time, our General Fund budget has struggled to meet its existing obligations for several years. Our mission is to balance the healthcare needs of the working poor with our constitutional obligation to live within the means that taxpayer dollars currently allow.”

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