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What American Health Care Act means for Arizona’s health care system

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The Health System Alliance of Arizona is an advocacy organization representing large, integrated health systems across Arizona. Our members – Banner Health, Dignity Health, HonorHealth and Tenet Healthcare – total more than 80 acute hospitals and medical facilities statewide, and employ more than 50,000 professionals across nearly every segment of health care. As health care providers and employers, our members have an interest in both access to care for our patients, and the long-term sustainability of our health care delivery system.

Jennifer Carusetta

Jennifer Carusetta

There have been a lot of opinions about the impact that the American Health Care Act, passed from the U.S. House a couple weeks ago, will have on our country. Much has been made about the impact it will have on coverage, the marketplace, and on the cost of care. But, what impact will the legislation, in its current form, have on the citizens of Arizona, on our patients and on the health care delivery system we have all come to rely upon?

First, it is important to remember that just because a person does not have health insurance does not mean they will not access health care services.  People without access to insurance coverage will still get sick with cancer, need transplants and require care for chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and mental illness. These individuals will have the same medical needs as a person with insurance coverage. However, instead of receiving services in lower cost settings such as physicians’ offices, or managing their conditions with prescription medication, these individuals will be forced to wait until their otherwise treatable medical conditions become uncontrolled. At this point, their only source of care will be a high cost emergency department.

Arizona has experienced the impact of a widespread loss of coverage before. When the state froze coverage for Medicaid enrolled-childless adults in 2011, uncompensated care in this state more than doubled. This impact is especially significant because, in Arizona, our Medicaid members utilize the same network of physicians, hospitals and medical practitioners as our privately insured population. This is one of the positive hallmarks of our Medicaid program.

It is also important to understand that hospitals cannot simply absorb the total cost of uncompensated care – much of this cost will be passed on to those with private insurance coverage. It is for this reason that uncompensated care will not only impact our Medicaid members who lose access to coverage, it will impact all of us through higher insurance costs and lowered access to care as the strain of uncompensated care threatens the fragile network of providers in our rural and critical access areas.

As hospitals and medical providers, we fully acknowledge that the Affordable Care Act is far from perfect. We also acknowledge that this is an important opportunity to build a health care system that not only drives affordability and access, but also innovation.  We would urge our delegation to take a deliberate approach as the American Health Care Act continues through the process, and work toward a solution that achieves these goals without threatening the coverage and health care network that the citizens of Arizona rely upon. As health care providers, we are ready and willing to help.

— Jennifer Carusetta is executive director of the Health System Alliance of Arizona.

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The views expressed in guest commentaries are those of the author and are not the views of the Arizona Capitol Times.

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