July 11, 2017

Letter opposing Senate ACA replacement from Sisters of Charity CEO and other local health care leaders published in Crain’s Cleveland Business

The Sisters of Charity Health System has repeatedly voiced its opposition to the versions of legislation in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) because both would significantly undermine access to health care for many who desperately need it. Health system President and CEO Tom Strauss joined four other Medicaid providers in Ohio in writing a letter to U.S. Sen Rob Portman opposing the Senate’s ACA replacement bill. Crain’s Cleveland Business recently published an article about the letter. The full text of the article is posted below.

Local health care leaders oppose Senate ACA replacement
By Lydia Coutre, Crain’s Cleveland Business

Leaders at MetroHealth, Summa Health and other major Medicaid providers in Ohio wrote a joint letter to U.S. Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio expressing "grave concerns" about the Senate's proposed bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

The Better Care Reconciliation Act is "not an acceptable replacement," for the ACA (also known as Obamacare) and will do "more harm than good for low-income communities and the providers that serve them," the letter states.

The June 29 letter, which was released to the media today, was signed by Dr. Akram Boutros, president and CEO of the MetroHealth System; Dr. Cliff Deveny, interim president and CEO of Summa Health System; Tom Strauss, president and CEO of Sisters of Charity Health System; Mary Boosalis, president and CEO of Premier Health; and Dr. Richard Lofgren, president and CEO of UC Health.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had pushed his Republican colleagues to vote on the health bill before the July 4 holiday, but, failing to gain the needed support, the voted was postponed.

After the delay, Portman issued a press release stating he's committed to creating a better health care system, but given concerns about the Medicaid policies in the bill — especially those that would impact drug treatment as Ohio grapples with an opioid epidemic — he "cannot support it in its current form."

The health care provider leaders who wrote to Portman thanked him for his opposition to the BCRA and requested he "remain steadfast unless our patients — your constituents — and the providers they trust to take care of them are better protected."

They cited an "unrealistic" growth rate assigned to the per-capita cap model and concerns about cuts in Medicaid Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) Payments, which go to hospitals serving a significantly disproportionate number of low-income patients. The leaders point to a distinction made in the BCRA that separates expansion from non-expansion states, and asks that expansion states take a $19 billion cut in DSH payments — cuts that would be used to fund those payments in non-expansion states, according to the letter.

The letter raises concerns that efforts to cap federal funding for Medicaid through per capita caps or block grants and reductions in support for the program's expansion "would severely undermine the health care safety net and our ability to serve beneficiaries, as well as shifting unsustainable costs to our state."

According to the letter, the state would lose nearly $14 billion in federal Medicaid funding over the next decade. It estimated that more than 700,000 Ohioans would have their coverage discontinued, and the addicted population would "suffer greatly."

"The one-time $2 billion opioid treatment grant in BCRA will not adequately address this population's complex medical needs — Ohio alone spent $1 billion on the epidemic last year," the letter states.

They also note the effect that Medicaid spending reductions would have on hospitals, which are the largest employers in many communities.

The health care industry "is an economic mainstay," and reduced spending "will mean more job losses throughout our respective regions," states the letter, which concludes by re-emphasizing the health care leaders' plea that Portman remain opposed to the bill.

The full letter here is posted here.

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From its Cleveland headquarters, the Sisters of Charity Health System provides oversight, leadership and strategic direction to more than 20 organizations responding to community needs in Canton and Cleveland, Ohio, and South Carolina.

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