Saturday, August 29, 2015

Obamacare's Latest Outcome - It's Been Great for Health Care Business

If Obamacare is a government takeover of health care, you could hardly tell it from recent reports from the private health care sector. Much of it is booming.

Obamacare’s Latest Outcome – It’s Been Great for Health Care Business

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If Obamacare is a government takeover of health care, you could hardly tell it from recent reports from the private health care sector. Much of it is booming.

Among hospitals, the largest for-profit chain, HCA Holdings, Inc., raised its financial forecast last week to reflect a 6.6% drop in the number of patients it treats who don’t have insurance. The drop is even more dramatic, 48%, in four states that expanded their Medicaid programs. LifePoint Hospitals, Inc., another chain, raised its forecast to reflect an increase of as much as $13 million in second quarter earnings, about 40% more than it had expected, due in large part to a drop in the number of uninsured patients.

Among nonprofit hospitals, Our Lady of Lourdes in Camden realized $3.5 million in savings over the past year from a drop in its percentage of uninsured patients from 8.5% to 3%. And a survey of 30 states by the Colorado Hospital Association found an increase of 30% in Medicaid charges coupled with a 30% drop in costs for charity care.

Among health insurers, Wellpoint, Inc. raised its forecast based on rising membership due to Obamacare. And UnitedHealth Group has reported gaining 635,000 members in its Medicaid plans. It also decided to expand the number of states in which it offers exchange plans to more than 20, up from just five this year.

None of this should be too surprising. The Affordable Care Act was designed to boost the private health care sector. Those 8 million people who signed up for coverage on the insurance exchanges are customers for private insurance companies, and the millions of new Medicaid enrollees mean more revenue for private Medicaid managed care plans. And Obamacare’s overall expansion of coverage means fewer uninsured hospital patients who can’t pay their bills.

This is not to deny that the law has caused stresses in other ways – especially for some smaller companies that are feeling squeezed by the requirement to offer health insurance to their workers.

However, the law seems to be a boon for many health care businesses, as it was expected to be. That hardly seems like a government takeover.

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Professor, School of Law & Drexel School of Public Health
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The Field Clinic reports and analyzes health care laws, government policies, and political trends that are transforming the care we receive and the way we pay for it. Read more about our panel of bloggers here.

This blog is produced in partnership with Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health-policy research and communication organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente. Portions of this blog may also be found on Inquirer.com and in the Inquirer's Sunday Health Section.

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Robert I. Field, Ph.D., J.D., M.P.H. Professor, School of Law & Drexel School of Public Health
Jeffrey Brenner, MD Founder of the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers, Medical Director of the Urban Health Institute at Cooper University Healthcare
Andy Carter President & CEO, The Hospital & Healthsystem Assoc. of Pa.
Robert B. Doherty Senior Vice President of Governmental Affairs & Public Policy American College of Physicians
David Grande, MD, MPA Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania
Tine Hansen-Turton Chief Strategy Officer of Public Health Management Corporation
Drew A. Harris, DPM, MPH Director of Health Policy Program at the Jefferson School of Population Health
Antoinette Kraus Director of the Pennsylvania Health Access Network
Laval Miller-Wilson Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Health Law Project
David B. Nash, MD, MBA Founding Dean of the Jefferson School of Population Health
Mark V. Pauly, Ph.D. Professor of Health Care Management, Business Economics and Public Policy at The Wharton School
Howard J. Peterson, MHA Managing Partner of TRG Healthcare, a national healthcare consulting firm
Paula L. Stillman, MD, MBA Healthcare consultant with special expertise in population health and disease management
Elizabeth A. W. Williams Senior Vice President & Chief Communications Officer for Independence Blue Cross
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