Sen. Wicker calls for prompt action on S. 1555

AHA News

The AHA Oct. 9 joined three other national hospital groups in urging senators to support S. 1555, the “DSH Reduction Relief Act,” which was recently introduced by Sen. Roger Wicker, R-MS. The bill is a companion measure to the House bill, H.R. 1920, which was introduced in May by Rep. John Lewis, D-GA. The legislation would delay for two years cuts to the Medicare and Medicaid Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) programs under the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” (ACA).

“The legislation would allow states to further debate health care insurance coverage while lessening the adverse impact on hospitals, so our facilities can continue provide care to the nation’s most vulnerable populations,” the groups wrote senators. In addition to the AHA, the letter was signed by the Association of American Medical Colleges, the Catholic Health Association of the United States and the Federation of American Hospitals.

Wicker recently spoke to AHA News about his legislation.

AHA News: As a result of the Supreme Court’s 2012 decision, fewer people than originally estimated will be covered under the ACA, and the number of uninsured will not decrease to the levels projected; yet the scheduled reductions in DSH payments remain in statute. Do you believe a two-year delay in the DSH funding cuts will give hospitals across your state adequate time to allow for the coverage expansions mandated by the ACA to be more fully realized?

Yes. The Obama administration’s insistence on cutting $22.1 billion from Medicare DSH payments was predicated on the assumption that the law’s mandates and expanded programs would reduce the number of uninsured and underinsured individuals.

However, many states have chosen to opt out of the law’s proposed Medicaid expansion, and the administration has provided countless waivers and delays of several of the most contentious mandates. Additionally, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office recently projected that, under the healthcare law, the number of uninsured in America will never fall below 30 million over the next decade. That is why it is so critical to delay the DSH cuts immediately.

Hospitals in my state of Mississippi are expected to lose tens of millions of dollars in reimbursement next year. Making matters worse, my state’s most underserved populations will lose access to care if the cuts are not delayed.

[My] legislation, S. 1555, will delay these cuts for two years and
help ensure that our safety-net hospitals can continue providing our nation’s most vulnerable populations with access to quality care.

AHA News:
What have you been hearing from Mississippi hospitals about the DSH funding cuts?

Medical professionals throughout Mississippi have told me that the cuts could be detrimental to health care access. Hospitals, especially those in rural areas, might not be able to continue to operate if the law’s promises of increased insurance coverage is not met and their DSH payments are reduced.

AHA News:
Are you concerned that your state’s health insurance marketplace may not be ready in the short term to provide coverage to needy Mississippi residents? Is that another reason to delay the cuts in DSH payments?

Wicker: I am deeply concerned that Mississippi’s health insurance marketplace is not ready for primetime. Since Oct. 1, the exchange has been riddled with delays, glitches, and very few options for consume...

Topic: Advocacy and Public Policy

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