Much has been written about the 20 million people who gained health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, and what could happen to these patients if the ACA is repealed without a replacement. But some people don't realize that hospitals nationwide could take a big financial hit on several fronts, too.
First, it's likely that fewer patients would be able to pay their hospital bills, health policy analysts say, so the institutions would be stuck with that bad debt, as they were before Obamacare.
"If the Medicaid expansion goes away wholesale, and things go back to the way they were before this expansion was in place, a lot of those hospitals would see an increase in their uncompensated care costs," says Rachel Garfield, an analyst with the Kaiser Family Foundation. The American Hospital Association estimates that hospitals across the U.S. could lose more than $160 billion from the reduction in Medicaid revenue and the increase in unpaid medical bills.
Then there's this: The ACA has used financial incentives to encourage hospitals to experiment with ways to improve their care of patients, while reducing health care's cost. That sort of experimentation has included a sizable upfront investment by many hospitals.
Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, for example, signed agreements with physicians and insurers to create accountable care organizations, in hopes of saving money in the long run. With an ACO, insurers pay doctors for making sure the patient is getting the best and most appropriate care, instead of paying for every test and procedure a doctor does.