Letter: No guarantee hospitals will be profitable in time to repay loans

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Editor,

I am a master’s in public Health candidate with a concentration of health policy at George Washing University in Washington, D.C. This commentary is in reference to the article, “Don’t cut Medicare Funding,” written by Dr. McGoff and published Oct. 6. It is very insightful, and I wanted to speak to a greater context of the problem.

I agree with the original author that the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Service’s decision to decrease Medicare reimbursement rates will lead to future trouble in health care. Hospitals and outpatient clinics faced stark financial setbacks for the first two quarters of the year and are still fighting to break even in the last two fiscal quarters of 2020. While hospitals are finally seeing an increase in admissions (a rebound close to normal), cutting reimbursement rates will exacerbate a fragile situation.

Emergency rooms and primary care physicians are vocalizing that wellness visits, heart attack cases and other frequently diagnosed conditions are well below the national average for 2020. This deficit is attributed to the fear that medical visits equate to contracting SARS-CoV-2, and many are pausing appointments for preventative health and screenings. As well documented, prevention costs health care networks a nominal amount, in the long run, in comparison to costs of uncontrolled and later diagnosed conditions.

As McGoff mentioned, the CARES Act gave money to hospitals via the accelerated and advanced Medicare payment program to offset the cash flow disruptions from COVID-19. This loan program is paid out through Medicare Part A, hospital insurance coverage. While loan repayment has been pushed to spring of 2021, with no adequate federal response to the pandemic, there is no guarantee that hospitals will be profitable and able to repay these loans by the deadline.

When loan repayments are coupled with lower reimbursement rates, this could cause many Hoosiers to face higher out-of-pocket costs.

Lauren Kahre, Carmel


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