LETTER: A better solution is now available

Published 7:17 am Thursday, May 6, 2010

The “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” that President Obama signed includes a provision that could significantly improve health care for our most vulnerable residents and heighten Austin Medical Center’s ability to continue providing high-quality, low-cost health care for our community.

The new federal health care reform law expands the Medicaid health insurance program to allow all single adults earning less than 133 percent of the federal poverty guideline to qualify for the program beginning Oct. 1, 2013.

Also included in the bill is a provision that allows individual states to cover this population, or a portion of this population, in Medicaid before Oct. 1, 2013. Hospital leaders across Minnesota are urging elected officials to enact this early Medicaid enrollment option for individuals earning less than 75 percent of the federal poverty guideline as soon as possible.

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This is a better alternative to implementing the new General Assistance Medical Care (GAMC) legislation. At the time the GAMC deal was struck, federal health care reform had stalled. Now we have a new and better opportunity to do what’s best for our patients.

If we take this historic opportunity to enroll these patients into Medicaid, we will provide them with access to providers across the state and they will receive both preventive and acute care services.

In 2010, Austin Medical Center already has planned for losses up to $1 million for GAMC alone. According to the Minnesota Hospital Association, the most recent cuts will take another $635,000 from Austin Medical Center.

There is another win. With available federal matching funds through the Medicaid program, Minnesota could bring $500 million to $1 billion of our taxpayers’ money back from Washington, D.C. and into our local economies. In other words, we have the rare opportunity to simultaneously improve the health of low-income residents, protect the financial stability necessary to keep health care services available throughout the state, and bolster our economy.

Minnesota now has a much better option available to us — early enrollment in Medicaid. Let’s not leave federal dollars on the table.

David Agerter, M.D., CEO/President, Austin Medical Center – Mayo Health System

Adam Rees, CAO, Austin Medical Center – Mayo Health System