Health Bill's impact on rural hospitals

Published: Jul. 7, 2017 at 7:15 PM CDT
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Under the Republican Senate health care bill, Medicaid would be cut my more than $770 billion over the next ten years, compared to projections under current law.

That could disproportionately affect rural hospitals that rely on patients access to Medicaid to get paid.

Coal Country Community Health Center treats 85 opioid addicted patients, a vast majority of whom rely on Medicaid.

"Medicaid is tremendously important. It supports our local hospitals. It supports our federally qualified health center and it's one of the reason we're in existence," said Dr. Aaron Garman, Coal Country medical director.

The health center treats patients using prescriptions, a different approach from many in North Dakota. Garman says if patients lose access to Medicaid, it could be a killer.

"It'd be very difficult for them to receive that service and a lot of them would go back to using Medicaid," said Garman.

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., visited the newly renovated Sakakwea Medical Center, which shares a building with Coal Country. Medical officials there say cuts to Medicaid would inhibit providers from providing as many services as they'd like.

"Having those individuals be without some sort of health coverage is challanging not only for them, but then us as providers to make sure we're reimbursed for those services," said Darrold Bertsch, Sakakawea Medical Center CEO.

"The important part is to see all these communities who are working really hard to continue to provide health care right here at home. We shouldn't make it harder for them in Washington, D.C," said Heitkamp.

The North Dakota Hospital Association says health care and social assistance account for one-in-seven workers across the state. Heitkamp argues cuts to Medicaid could slow rural economic growth by eliminating some of those jobs.

Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., said Thursday he wouldn't support the bill in its current form.​

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