By Angie Bass, CEO, Missouri Health Connection
Missourians rely on our hospitals for life-saving care. Patients turn to our hospitals to diagnose illnesses, receive critical care for diseases like diabetes, cancer, and heart disease, and any urgent medical needs. And hospitals, as well as their doctors, nurses, and caregivers, compassionately care for their patients. They are part of our community, they live here, they shop here, and they care for our residents, our children, and the most vulnerable when they are sick or infirmed.
Currently, Missouri hospitals who care for a large number of Medicaid patients or the uninsured are part of the Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) Program that provides hospitals with much-needed funding to provide services and quality care. According to the Missouri Hospital Association, “if the Medicaid DSH allotment reductions take effect Oct. 1, Missouri stands to lose $2.2 billion through fiscal year 2025.”
If Congress doesn’t act swiftly, the DSH program will be decimated, forcing hospitals to shutter wings, department and clinics, cut services, eliminate jobs, or even close their doors. The patients who rely on these hospitals will then have no access to quality care and no way to get their medications or life-saving treatment. The clinicians and staff that work at the hospitals will face job loss which could devastate communities and drive patients even further away from access to routine, specialty and emergent care.
With the partisan rancor gripping Washington, DC, and the nation, the DSH program is a bright spot. It is supported by both Democrats and Republicans alike, as well as the hospital industry, hospital caregivers, and patients. More importantly, when we were at this crossroads before, Congress acted. In 2015, the DSH Program was extended by nearly unanimous votes in the House (392-37) and the Senate (92-8), with Senators Blunt and McCaskill and all of Missouri’s representatives voting to extend the program and protect access to quality care for all Missourians. The Missouri congressional delegation needs to vote to reauthorize the DSH Program so that our hospitals do not incur devastating effects in the ability to provide patients with access to care when they desperately need it.
The DSH Program is vital to the health and well being of not only our fellow Missourians, but of our state as a whole. These hospitals are the backbone of our communities; they create jobs and are an economic engine for towns across the state.
Congress needs to act now to ensure continued access to quality care for all Missourians.
Angie Bass is CEO of Missouri Health Connection, a private, non-profit, statewide health information exchange network that provides a secure and private electronic platform to electronically share health information in order to improve patient health. MHC’s network includes more than 70 hospitals, hundreds of clinics and more than 7,000 physicians treating more than 16 million patients. For more information, visit www.MissouriHealthConnection.org.