MOUNT VERNON — The passage of legislation Thursday by the U.S. House of Representatives to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act has left Skagit Regional Health and other medical facilities throughout the country with uncertain futures, said CEO and President Mike Liepman.
“In 40 years of running hospitals ... these are some of the most unsettling times,” Liepman said. “We need to be able to predict our future. We can’t do that perfectly, but we at least like to have an idea.”
The Republican-led House voted 217-213 to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly called Obamacare.
The impacts of the legislation, which must still pass the U.S. Senate, are being fleshed out. What is clear, Liepman said, is the new health care legislation has made it difficult for hospitals to plan ahead financially.
“When we are budgeting, this kind of uncertainty is troubling,” Liepman said. “Who will be insured? How will we get paid?”
Skagit Valley Hospital is working on multiple projects, the biggest being a $72 million investment in a new electronic patient records system.
Liepman said the hospital’s current financial projections could be thrown out if changes are made to the health care law.
“Pick something and stick with it,” Liepman said. “Obviously, I think we’d want something in the best interest of the community. Even if it’s something less than that, can we at least get something done so we can plan for it?”
He said Skagit Regional Health is not alone in dealing with that uncertainty.
“There are 6,000 other hospitals out there going, ‘I don’t know what we are going to do with this level of instability in the industry,’” he said.
Early looks at the bill to repeal and replace the ACA have drawn the ire of many health care organizations. The Washington State Hospital Association and other national organizations released statements condemning it.
“I know a lot of health care organizations came out in opposition in that the legislation doesn’t have the patient in mind,” Liepman said. “Obviously, we are concerned for possible loss of coverage for people on Medicaid and increasing cost for adults.”