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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