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Congressman Richard Neal

Representing the 1st District of Massachusetts

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US Rep. Richard Neal touts Obamacare's impacts on Massachusetts hospitals, raises concerns about market uncertainty

July 6, 2017
In The News

GREAT BARRINGTON -- Making the case for keeping the Affordable Care Act, U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, touted the impacts the law, known as Obamacare, has had on Massachusetts hospitals as he stopped in Berkshire County Thursday.

The congressman, who has called for "fixing" the ACA over GOP-led efforts to dismantle it, continued to call for improvements to the current health care system and spoke out against marketplace uncertainty during a grant announcement at Fairview Hospital in Great Barrington.

Contending that rural areas face specific challenges when it comes to organizing and delivering health care, Neal argued that the ACA has helped provide "new funding and initiatives to improve care coordination and better align incentives to promote high quality health care."

The congressman, who joined local and state officials in announcing Fairview Hospital's receipt of a nearly $100,000 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Rural Health Network Development planning grant, said Republican-backed efforts to repeal the ACA would do away with "what has enabled this critical opportunity for our local hospital."

"Congress is considering legislation that will directly harm rural areas by raising the number of residents without insurance coverage and shifting more health care costs on to working families...Should the Republican health proposal become law, it would devastate rural communities and the hospitals that serve them," he argued in a statement.

The grant awarded to Fairview Hospital will help assist in the development of an integrated health care network to: achieve efficiencies; expand access to, coordinate and improve quality of essential health care services; and strengthen the rural health care system, according to the congressman's office.

Neal further pointed to the ACA's impacts on hospital across Western Massachusetts that depend on Medicare and Medicaid payments -- the latter of which could see major cuts under Republican-backed House and Senate health care bills, according to Congressional Budget Office analyses.

U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, continued to push back Tuesday against Republican-led efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, taking issue with findings included in the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office's recent score of a Senate GOP health care plan.

"One of the things that we did in the ACA was to provide support for rural hospitals -- You have 29 beds here (at Fairview,)" he told reporters. "The example that I would use is Wing is a very small hospital in Palmer, Harrington is a very small hospital in Southbridge, Massachusetts and these hospitals ... they are heavily dependent upon Medicare and Medicaid; the rule of thumb is about two-thirds."

"If you go to Mercy in Springfield and Holyoke Hospital those numbers are north of 80 percent Medicare and Medicaid because of the high rates of poverty, coupled with what you have here in Great Barrington: rural access," Neal continued.

Fairview Hospital, for example, sees 43.5 percent of its revenue come from Medicare, 28.1 percent come from Medicaid and 24.6 percent from private payers, the congressman noted, citing Massachusetts Hospital Association data.

Aside from raising concerns about how GOP-led efforts to undo Obamacare could impact rural hospitals, Neal told reporters that uncertainty stemming from the current debate over the ACA also poses challenges to health care providers.

"You can't plan if you don't know what's going to be there. One of the things that (Republicans have) done is to provide uncertainty in insurance markets everywhere and it's causing the private insurance groups to back off a bit because they don't know how to plan, " he said. "Hospitals don't know how to plan for reimbursement scheduling, for example. And, on one hand, they're saying 'We're going to repeal' but without saying what they're going to replace it with, it causes great uncertainty in health care markets."