Medicaid Expansion Offers Financial Boost For Hospitals

Second quarter earnings reports highlight how health law provisions are helping increase hospital companies' profits.

Reuters: U.S. Hospitals Get Lift From Surge In Medicaid Sign-Ups
U.S. hospitals are getting a stronger-than-expected benefit from a new influx of low-income patients whose bills are paid by the government's Medicaid program, raising their profit forecasts as a result. The growing numbers of Medicaid patients helped hospital operator HCA Holdings Inc, the largest for-profit chain, post stronger earnings in the second quarter than initially forecast. Notably fewer uninsured patients came through its doors, HCA said, as millions of Americans signed up for private health insurance under President Barack Obama's healthcare law. But a second, unexpectedly strong boost came from a surge in Medicaid enrollment, which is expanding under the law known as Obamacare (Kelly, 7/31).

Philadelphia Inquirer: Obamacare’s Been Great For Health Care Business
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  (Field, 8/1).

A new report in Pennsylvania points to the benefits of Medicaid expansion for a number of people and businesses.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Report Argues For Pennsylvania Medicaid Expansion
A new report by two groups favoring an expansion of Pennsylvania’s Medicaid program says more than half of the 481,000 uninsured Pennsylvanians hold jobs and would benefit if the state expanded its Medicaid program. Many of these residents have jobs that don't provide health insurance, or pay enough to buy it, such as home health aides, cashiers or janitors, the report says. Together, they represent 59 percent of Pennsylvania's uninsured, while another 22 percent comprise students, nonworking spouses, people with disabilities and those who have left the workforce, according to the report by Pennsylvania Health Access Network and Families USA (Twedt, 8/1).

Also in the news, health exchanges -

Chicago Tribune: Problem Solver: Woman Tries To Cancel Exchange Insurance, Gets No Response
Erin Carver had no trouble signing up for health insurance through the federal health insurance marketplace created under the Affordable Care Act. Canceling her policy, however, has been a bear. The Wheaton resident signed up online in late November, whizzing through prompts before choosing a Blue Cross and Blue Shield Choice Gold Plan. Her policy started Jan. 1, and she had no issues with the coverage. A stroke of good fortune in April resulted in a new job, which included a company-sponsored health insurance plan. Her new insurance, through her employer, started May 1. As luck would have it, it was also administered by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois. On May 6, Carver emailed Blue Cross and asked to cancel her Obamacare plan because she no longer needed it. Two days later, Blue Cross emailed back (Yates, 7/28).

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