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By Pam Reinig

Register Editor


The closely held Republican healthcare plan, released last week, could have a devastating impact on the future of rural hospitals like Central Community Hospital in Elkader and Guttenberg Municipal Hospital, Guttenberg. That’s because the plan proposed deep cuts to Medicaid, which threatens the ability of smaller hospitals to provide care to rural residents.

“(Our) local experience and concerns are not unlike the concerns of rural hospitals and healthcare providers across the country,” said Kim Gau, CEO, Guttenberg Municipal Hospital. “We have a large share of Medicaid patients in our service region. To put (the situation) in dollars and cents, if Medicaid funding is cut by just 1 percent in the year ahead, it represents a negative impact of $266,750 to the bottom line of our hospital.”

The proposed plan, which had yet to be voted on by press time, suggests a much deeper Medicaid cut than 1 percent.

According to Brooke Kensinger, CEO at Central Community Hospital, CCH is a bit better situated than some rural hospital.

“In 2015, CCH had about 6 percent of Medicaid in its payor mix,” she said, adding that most rural hospitals have 10 to 20 percent. “But that amount is still significant and impacts our ability to deliver care.

The new healthcare plan has not met with unanimous approval. The plan’s architect, Mitch McConnell (R) of Kentucky, had hoped to bring the measure to a vote before the Senate recesses for the July 4 holiday on Friday. With each passing day, that seems unlikely as McConnell and others seek to win backing from members of their own party. Iowa Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst last week indicated that they were reserving final judgment until they’d had a chance to more thoroughly study the document.

“I would encourage Northeast Iowans to contact their senators and have their voices hear,” said Kensinger.

If you want to send an email, you’ll need to complete on form on each senator’s site. If you’d like to call their Washington offices, here are their phone numbers: Joni Ernest, (202) 224-3254, and Chuck Grassley, (202) 224-3744.

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