No wonder Maine’s hospitals wanted Medicaid expansion!

Credit: 401(K)2013/Creative Commons.

Credit: 401(K)2013/Creative Commons.

What a difference Medicaid expansion makes!

More and more evidence is piling up that hospitals are seeing far fewer patients without health insurance.

Medicaid expansion is yielding a big drop in uncompensated care and big increases in revenues

As Kaiser Health News reports:

At Seattle’s largest safety-net hospital, the proportion of uninsured patients fell from 12 percent last year to an unprecedented low of 2 percent this spring—a drop expected to boost Harborview Medical Center’s revenue by $20 million this year.

And the share of uninsured patients was cut roughly in half this year at two other major safety net hospitals—Denver Health in Colorado and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Hospital (UAMS) in Little Rock, Ark.

And Medicaid expansion is helping patients, with many moving toward primary care providers rather than ER care.

Hospital officials say the biggest impact of the change is on patients themselves. Rather than having to rely on emergency rooms, newly insured patients can see primary care doctors and get diagnostic tests and prescription drugs, among other services.

Check out what’s happening in Colorado:

Patient visits to Denver Health primary care offices are up 14 percent this year, while ER visits are down 2 percent. Patient visits for mental health and substance abuse services are also up nearly 50 percent.

“Patients are seeking care at better and more cost-effective and more appropriate settings,” said Peg Burnette, chief financial officer at Denver Health.

As I’ve noted before, drops in charity care in Medicaid expansion states are being reported by companies that own numerous hospitals, while they see uncompensated care rise in states that didn’t expand.

Meanwhile, in Maine, what do we see?

There are announcements of layoffs at hospitals, in part because MaineCare wasn’t expanded. Gov. LePage and most Republicans in the Maine Legislature opposed expansion.

The Alexander Group’s first report said that MaineCare expansion wouldn’t lead to a drop in uncompensated care.

Yet that’s exactly what’s happening elsewhere — and quite rapidly. And it’s helping hospitals and preserving jobs, contributing to economic growth.

Amy Fried

About Amy Fried

Amy Fried loves Maine's sense of community and the wonderful mix of culture and outdoor recreation. She loves politics in three ways: as an analytical political scientist, a devoted political junkie and a citizen who believes politics matters for people's lives. Fried is Professor of Political Science at the University of Maine. Her views do not reflect those of her employer or any group to which she belongs.