Northwell CEO derides Obamacare replacement bill as a ‘charade’

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Northwell Health CEO Michael Dowling will be a vocal critic of the Republican-proposed bill to replace the Affordable Care Act, which he called a “charade” last Friday, said Terry Lynam, the senior vice president and chief public relations officer at Northwell Health.

“The underlying concern is that this legislation would strip health insurance from millions of Americans, weaken federal protections for those with pre-existing conditions and reduce Medicaid spending by an estimated $840 billion, which would result in major reimbursement cuts to health-care providers,” Lynam said.

The bill, called the American Health Care Act, passed the House of Representatives last Thursday.

“I think there is hope that more rational minds will prevail in the senate and will take steps to modify the health bill,” Lynam said.

The bill retains the subsidized health insurance markets created by the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, but allows insurers to charge old adults five times more than they charge young adults, a ratio that is capped at 3 to 1 under the Affordable Care Act.

Due to an amendment drafted by Republican New Jersey Rep. Tom MacArthur, states would be allowed to apply for a waiver to opt out of certain provisions of Obamacare like the requirement to provide basic health benefits.

The bill would also end the medicaid expansion initiated by the Affordable Care Act, meaning no newly eligible people could be added to the program after 2019.

“As hospitals we have a mission to treat people regardless of whether they can pay,” Lynam said. “When people come into the emergency room the first order of business is to treat them for the illness they have. When you take away insurance from them, people are still going to need care.”

Northwell belongs to the American Hospital Association, a national trade organization that opposes the Obamacare replacement bill, as well as the Greater New York Hospital Association, the Health Care Association of New York State and the Nassau Suffolk Hospital Council, Lynam said.

“Probably organizations opposed to the bill are trying to put together, develop plans of how they want to go about expressing opposition,” he said. “I expect you probably will see a lot of ads and demonstrations as we go forward.”

Northwell Health made $96 million in profits over last fiscal year but its affiliated health insurance provider, Care Connect, lost over $100 million, Lynam said.

Care Connect’s losses resulted from a stipulation in Obamacare that requires health insurance companies covering young, cheaper clients to share revenue with companies covering older, more expensive clients, Lynam said.

Care Connect payed $120 million due to the requirement, Lynam said.

He said the rule “sounds good on its face” but United Healthcare, the largest health care company in the United States, received $300 million in shared revenue in New York State alone.

“These are the kind of flaws in Obamacare, one that’s obviously impacted us directly, that resulted in a destabilized insurance market,” he said.

But the priority should be placed on the many Americans who gain health care coverage as a result of the law, he said.

“Everybody recognizes changes need to be made but the concern on our end is the need to maintain provisions of the law that preserve access for more than 20 million [previously] uninsured Americans,” Lynam said.

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