With the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and its replacement by the efforts of Congress with their new health care bills, there is an issue that is not mentioned very much, one important to the many residents in rural and small-town communities.
With the successful passage of the Senate-sponsored health care bill, the availability of medical health care, especially by hospitals, urgent care centers and outpatient clinics will greatly be reduced in smaller communities.
When you think about who is paying these providers for their services (that would be Medicaid for a large percentage of patients in New Mexico’s rural and small-town communities), it makes sense. Hospitals, doctors, nurses and all the other workers at health care facilities expect to be paid for their services. If there is no money or inadequate funding, facilities will provide less care to fewer people, or just close all together.
The Affordable Care Act, through enhanced Medicaid funding, provides more care for more low-income, elderly and disabled patients, as well as infants and children. As an economically depressed state, New Mexico has seen significant increase in access to medical care among these populations.
In addition, there has been movement to have people with relatively minor health problems go to urgent care clinics rather than to the hospital emergency department, resulting in great savings of money, time and resources, and these clinics are much less costly than high-tech, expensive emergency care.
But when financial support for these clinics is no longer available, poor families will return to seeking care for childhood illnesses, minor injuries, cold and flu symptoms, to the local emergency department. Hospitals, by law, cannot refuse care in their emergency departments. Unpaid care must be absorbed by the hospital, forcing many to close.
The rural and small-town residents have much at stake in the movement to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Think about it.
Dr. William F. Brinney, M.D. (retired)