How Healthcare Bill Affects Southeast Ohio

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As the United States Senate pores over a new draft of a healthcare bill for the nation, Ohioans are talking about the effects the bill would have on Southeast Ohio.

In a conference call on Wednesday, Brown echoed criticism the current draft of the healthcare bill has received from others.
“It’s just colossally stupid to try to run a health insurance system the way that some people in (Senate Majority Leader) Mitch McConnell’s office want to run it,” Brown said.

Brown praised Governor John Kasich’s expansion of Medicaid in a conference call on Wednesday, and said the Senate’s bill could jeopardize that. Both Kasich and Brown have criticized the cuts to Medicaid in the national bill.

Kasich’s expansion was reduced as part of the Ohio legislators’ final budget plan, but the cuts were vetoed by Kasich. With the potential for cuts from the U.S. Senate, the Ohio Senate has yet to decide whether they will override the veto of the state Medicaid cuts.
Along with the cuts to Medicaid, which served 3 million Ohioans in 2016, according to the Ohio Department of Medicaid, the U.S. Senate’s bill could be especially devastating to Ohio’s rural counties, Brown said.

“The communities that have lost the most manufacturing jobs, the communities that have been hit hardest by opioid addiction, the communities that depend on their local hospital for care, that’s so common in counties like Athens, and Meigs, and Gallia and all over Southeast Ohio,” Brown said.

Some in Southeast Ohio say the effects removing the Affordable Care Act would be felt by both the patients and the local clinics that serve the patients.

Randy Runyon, President and CEO of the Ohio Association of Community Health Centers, which serves 672,000 people across Ohio said the Affordable Care Act made medical care more of a priority for patients.
“Sometimes they’ll ration their own care…and now they have the freedom come in and make sure they’re getting treated for everything,” Runyon said.
The community health centers in Southeast Ohio counties are some of the only medical facilities patients can access outside of hospitals.
Runyon also said with the uncertainty of the healthcare bill causing insurance companies to back out, health clinics are also having trouble maintaining their bottom line.
“Basically people, their business plans are paralyzed,” Runyon said. “As part of the Affordable Care Act…since we were getting compensated for care, folks opened up new sites, started providing new services, and as (the uncertainty) lingers on, businesses just don’t invest…even though a community health center is a non-profit, they have to think like a business.”

The U.S. Senate has extended their session into August to discuss the healthcare bill, and national media have reported McConnell hopes to hold a vote next week.