WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, reiterated his objections to Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act on Wednesday, holding a conference call with Ohio reporters to voice his concerns for how a proposed replacement to the ACA would affect health care in rural communities.
Both Brown and Mike Winthrop, president and CEO of Bellevue Hospital, said that repealing the ACA, also known as Obamacare, and the Medicaid expansion program will negatively impact rural counties, the 50 of which in Ohio account for more than 20 percent of the state’s population.
“The potential of the ACA repeal will have a devastating effect on hospitals all across the country and, most notably, small and rural hospitals,” Winthrop said. “In Ohio, Medicaid Expansion has given access, and hope, to over 170,000 residents in rural communities. With proper coverage, individuals are more likely to receive routine, including preventative, care and therefore lessen their risk of various illnesses and diseases.”
Brown issued a report citing research from the Chartis Center for Rural Health saying that 22 percent of Ohio hospitals would be at risk of closure because of Medicaid funding cuts should the Better Care Reconciliation Act, the ACA alternative proposed by Senate Republicans, become law.
“Our rural counties already face unique health care challenges from attracting top talent, to delivering care to far-flung populations, to fighting the opioid epidemic,” Brown said. “Instead of pushing legislation that harms Ohioans in rural communities to pad the pockets of insurance and pharmaceutical CEOs, we should be working together to tackle these challenges and lower health care costs for all families.”
Both Brown and Winthrop acknowledged that there are deficiencies in the ACA in its current form, as evidenced by the lack of available plans, higher premiums and closures of health coverage cooperatives. However, Brown said he believes action can be taken to stabilize the current system rather than try to put a new one in place.
“First of all, you need the administration to act more predictably,” he said. “When the administration, every month, dances about whether we’re going to put subsidies in or withdraw them, it makes insurers nervous. Second, you work to get more young, healthy people in [coverage plans]. That would make a huge difference. Third, we get the cost of drugs under control. We have four or five ideas that we’ve introduced in bill form. Last, we need to pass the bill that I worked on 10 years ago on the public option. A public option would guarantee that whether it’s Allen County, Van Wert County, Putnam County or anywhere in western Ohio or anywhere else, they would always have a public option, which looks a lot like Medicare, in those counties.”