To many nurses around the country, the talk about healthcare reform in the nation’s capital is just that: a whole lot of talk. But if the current healthcare bill being considered by the Senate passes, are you ready for how it will impact your practice and the nursing profession as a whole?
Take hospital funding, for example. Love it or hate it, it’s a fact that “Obamacare” (or the Affordable Care Act, “ACA”) drastically reduced the amount of money hospitals spend annually on uncompensated, or “charitable,” care.
In one state alone, Minnesota, hospitals have seen their uncompensated care costs decline by 17% since the implementation of the ACA, saving hospitals in the state about $53 million annually.
Such numbers are far from uncommon, and are probably similar where you live. The reason is simple: when more people have insurance, more people are able to pay their hospital bills. Unfortunately, the healthcare changes being considered by the Senate would leave 49 million people across the US without health insurance, once again increasing the need for hospitals to provide enormous (and enormously expensive) amounts of charitable and otherwise uncompensated care.
These increased costs will need to be accounted for in hospital budgets and will likely impact nurse staffing and care delivery—a critical issue which ANA recently addressed in a widely co-signed letter to the Center for Medicare Services.
But the healthcare bill will also impact nurses outside of the hospital setting. According to a recent survey of school administrators, over seventy percent of school districts turn to Medicaid to pay for the health professionals and school nurses needed to care for special education students. Since the senate healthcare bill would cut Medicaid spending by almost $800 billion and impose a cap on the amount of Medicaid-funded services any child could receive, school nurses and administrators are staunchly opposed to the bill.
Even if you don’t work in a hospital setting, and even if you don’t have children in school, it’s likely you will still be impacted by the healthcare bill being considered by the Senate. For example, we all have a vested interest in the health of our nation’s veterans. But of concern to veterans, VA nurses, and Veterans groups, 1.75 million vets stand to lose their Medicaid coverage under the healthcare bill, which in turn would impact the VA as more veterans seek care in that already overloaded and underfunded system.
Since Medicaid pays for most of the 1.4 million Americans in nursing homes, elderly Americans and nursing home nurses are also gravely concerned by the impact of the healthcare bill. The same goes for rural nurses and citizens, whose safety-net hospitals are projected to lose eighty-three percent of their net income by 2026 under the new bill.
The list goes on: whether or not you realize it, this healthcare bill will impact you and your practice, perhaps in ways that are unforeseen or unintended. That’s why the American Nurses Association is calling for a more thorough, nuanced, and bipartisan process for healthcare reform.
We urge the Senate to step back and approach this herculean task in a way that works for all Americans. For the sake of nurses and their patients, we can’t afford to get this one wrong.