I am writing to raise awareness that if the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is repealed with no replacement plan with equal or better coverage for everyone it may well put the health and survival of our local hospital at risk. Since 2010 small, rural hospitals have been closing at the rate of one per month in the U.S. As of 2016, 77 percent of those were in states that did not expand Medicaid. With a state-run health plan exchange and Medicaid expansion, Washington has been fortunate to have had no hospital closures.
When a community has high numbers of uninsured residents, they seek care at the emergency rooms of local hospitals as a last resort. The burden of providing that uncompensated care can easily sink a smaller hospital, forcing it to close.
Over 7,000 people here in Island County are at risk of losing their coverage (subsidized insurance and Medicaid expansion) if the ACA is repealed. My guess is that 4-5,000 of those live on Whidbey Island.
I do not think WhidbeyHealth hospital can afford to provide uncompensated care to that many vulnerable citizens. We would run the risk of financially ruining this essential health service if that happened. At the least, there would be budget cuts resulting in job losses and decreased quality and availability of services and price increases we cannot afford. At worst, the whole hospital could close.
If WhidbeyHealth hospital had to close it would put 750 employees out of work (jobs we can ill afford to lose) and make obtaining needed health care more difficult for all of us. Do we want to live without an ER or a hospital on the Island?
We must subsidize the health care of low income citizens so that our whole community can be assured of access. States that refused the Medicaid expansion are living proof of what happens without it. Hospital closures are some of the chief arguments that have swayed Republican governors to change their minds.
Please let our U.S. representative, Congressman Rick Larsen, know you support the retention and improvement of the ACA. Keep our hospital and ER open for all!
BARBARA BANFIELD, RN