MHA Says State’s Safety Net Strained To The Limit

BOSTON — The Mass. Hospital Assoc. recently warned that increased numbers of patients without insurance coverage are destabilizing the health care delivery system upon which all Massachusetts patients depend.
In testimony before the state Legislature’s Joint Health Care Commit-tee, MHA acknowledged the efforts of the Legislature and administration to address the safety net crisis this fiscal year, but emphasized that more work lies ahead.

The committee is reviewing bills that would change the state’s system for reimbursing hospitals for the care they provide to uninsured patients. That system, known as the free care pool, is expected to run a shortfall of at least $85 million this fiscal year. The losses will be borne entirely by hospitals.

Nationally, the number of uninsured has grown to 43 million. In Massachusetts, the number has grown to more than half a million. Holyoke Medical Center has felt the consequences, according to CEO Hank Porten. He testified that his facility, located in one of the poorest communities in the state, has seen a 60{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5} increase in patients with no ability to pay since April. “This is a significant financial burden to Holyoke.”

Increased rates of insurance coverage are the best way to bring stability to the health care delivery system, said Timothy Gens, MHA’s senior vice president for policy and regulation, who testified on MHA’s behalf.

“Massachusetts hospitals are committed, by mission, to caring for all who seek acute care, regardless of a patient’s ability to pay,” said Gens. “When more and more patients walk through the doors of our hospitals without insurance and with harder-to-treat, advanced conditions, financial losses mount. Those losses produce consequences that even those with insurance experience, through higher premiums or curtailed services. The crisis affects all communities and all patients.”

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