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LI hospitals: Obamacare repeal could cost more than $3B

Michael Dowling chief executive of Northwell Health is

Michael Dowling chief executive of Northwell Health is shown in front of a SPECT/CT machine at the health providers's new Imbert Cancer Center in Bay Shore on Friday, Oct. 21, 2016. Credit: Veronique Louis

Long Island hospitals stand to lose about $3.2 billion in revenue during the next decade if the Affordable Care Act is repealed without a meaningful replacement, the region’s main hospital lobbying group said.

“If they repeal this and don’t do something to offset the cuts, it’s going to be staggering for every hospital,” Kevin Dahill, the president and chief executive of the Nassau-Suffolk Hospital Council, said on Tuesday.

Health care is a growing industry on Long Island. Employment in the sector climbed 4.4 percent in November from a year earlier to 222,600 and is expected to rise further in 2017 as the growing elderly population needs care and large health systems diversify and expand services.

On Long Island, 334,343 people have gained health care coverage since the 2010 passage of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, according to the Nassau-Suffolk Hospital Council.

About 20 million individuals nationwide got health insurance coverage because of the Affordable Care Act, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

Michael J. Dowling, president and chief executive at Northwell Health, called for a measured approach to any changes to the Affordable Care Act, which he praised for covering many who were previously uninsured, and for cost-containment measures such as paying health systems based on their performance in delivering quality care.

But he also said the Affordable Care Act has adversely impacted a health insurance company Northwell operates, CareConnect Insurance Co. Northwell this year will make a $100 million payment to the federal government as a result of how the Affordable Care Act measures the risks taken by health insurers, a provision that Dowling called “flawed.”

Catholic Health Services spokeswoman Christine Hendriks said that if the underpinnings of the Affordable Care Act are not replaced it would create a financial strain on the system “that will be felt immediately.”

The Nassau-Suffolk Hospital Council said the $3.2 billion hospitals stand to lose factors in reductions in Disproportionate Share Hospital payments, which reimburse hospitals that care for large numbers of uninsured patients. The cuts were made when the Affordable Care Act was passed.

Dahill said that if Obamacare is ended, and the DSH payments aren’t immediately increased to prior levels, Long Island hospitals’ average operating margin of about 3 percent would be squeezed. The national hospital average operating margin is 6.4 percent.

The New York state average hospital operating margin is 1.3 percent, which is the second lowest in the nation, according to a joint statement issued by a consortium of New York hospital groups, including the Nassau-Suffolk Hospital Council.

The state group added that New York hospitals stand to lose about $24 billion over the next 10 years.

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