GUEST COMMENTARY: Expanding health care coverage is good for community

2013-04-18T00:00:00Z GUEST COMMENTARY: Expanding health care coverage is good for communityBy Ian McFadden nwitimes.com
April 18, 2013 12:00 am  • 

It’s clear that low-income, working Hoosiers without health insurance and Indiana’s economy as a whole would benefit from expanding coverage. Whether it is through the Healthy Indiana Plan or under the Medicaid provisions under health reform, we cannot wait to act.

A recent report from the Center for Health Policy at the University of Nebraska Medical Center states Indiana has the opportunity to cover more than 400,000 uninsured by leveraging more than $10 billion in federal funding through 2020. 

Federal funding could generate up to $3.4 billion in new economic activity in the state through 2020. Not only would more Hoosiers have health care coverage, but the boost in economic activity could result in at least $108 million in additional state and local tax revenue each year and support more than 30,000 jobs.

Today, Indiana hospitals employ 126,000 people, representing nearly $8 billion in wages and benefits. Methodist Hospitals, the 13th largest employer in Northwest Indiana, has 2,410 employees and a payroll of more than $116 million, and its direct economic impact on the regional economy is estimated at $123 million. Hospital employees in Indiana earn almost 20 percent more than the average salaried worker.

Perhaps the most important element of the UNMC study is the impact on insurance premiums for Hoosiers with private health coverage. Reducing the number of uninsured would represent a significant first step in reducing insurance premiums paid by Indiana businesses and their employees, as well as people purchasing insurance on their own. Coverage expansion is estimated to reduce the cost of insurance for individuals $236 and for families $677 annually, beginning in 2014.

In 2012, Methodist Hospitals alone had $60.5 million in charity care and bad debt. Statewide this cost is $3 billion. Patients without coverage often have no other avenue but the emergency room for basic care. Hospitals treat complex, chronic conditions at great economic and social cost, and we must encourage preventative care and early treatment if we are to bend the health care cost curve in the long run.

Our state can’t afford to be left behind as other states accept federal funds that Hoosiers are helping to generate. We can’t afford to leave thousands of residents uninsured or to reject billions of new dollars that will support jobs and economic growth.

Methodist Hospitals strongly urges our policymakers to increase coverage because, after careful review, we feel a responsible and fiscally sound plan can be created.

Ian E. McFadden, president and CEO of Methodist Hospitals, is president of the Indiana Hospitals Association Northwestern District. The opinions are the writer's.

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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