Betsy Ryan is president and CEO of the New Jersey Hospital Association. Her blog, Healthcare Matters, examines the many issues confronting New Jersey's hospitals and their patients. Readers are encouraged to join the discussion, because healthcare matters - to all of us.

Debunking the BCRA Disinformation

I have worked in the healthcare field for 27 years and the amount of disinformation swirling around the U.S. Senate’s “Better Care Reconciliation Act” is staggering. Let me address the falsehoods:

  • No, the bill does not provide sufficient protections for those with pre-existing health conditions. It’s true that one part of the bill prohibits charging people more for pre-existing conditions, but another section allows governors to apply for waivers for their states to deny coverage for certain conditions or charge more. This is the proverbial Schrödinger’s Cat of the BCRA, a paradox in which it is true because it is prohibited, while it is allowable in another section of the bill.
  • House Speaker Paul Ryan (no relation) claims there’s a good reason that fewer people will be covered under the Senate bill: because they will elect not to obtain coverage. This is false. The Congressional Budget Office’s analysis of the bill shows that the majority of the people who will lose healthcare coverage are Medicaid recipients. These are our seniors, children and people with disabilities who rely on Medicaid for care and who could be unceremoniously removed from Medicaid, or see their benefits reduced, under deep cuts to the program.
  • “Obamacare is imploding.” Not true, as stated explicitly by the CBO. The Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act is working well, and this is the largest segment of people insured under the ACA. Those insured under the Marketplace are a smaller number, and it’s true that the Marketplace or exchanges could use reforms. Every state has insurance options available under the Marketplace, although it’s true that there are some isolated counties where no plans are available. The good news is that many states, including New Jersey, have recently had insurance companies expanding into the Marketplace. That gives consumers more options to purchase insurance, but I think everyone agrees that there is more we can do to drive down premiums and deductibles.
  • One of the ugliest comments I’ve heard about Medicaid is that its recipients should “just get jobs.” This is callous and uninformed. First, nearly 60 percent of New Jersey’s nursing home residents are on Medicaid. Medicaid also covers one in three children in our state. It’s hard to get a job when you’re in a nursing home bed or are a schoolkid. In addition, reports show that eight in 10 Medicaid recipients live in a household where someone works, but that person is not lucky enough to have a job that provides health insurance.
  • “CBO data is inaccurate.” It’s easy to blame the messenger, but the CBO is a nonpartisan entity that is highly respected and puts out very credible information. The CBO score on the BCRA clearly impacted the Senate’s decision not to vote this week. Senators saw the report of 22 million Americans losing insurance as really important news, critical to their decision making.
  • The biggest misnomer of all? Its name, the “Better Care Reconciliation Act. If cutting health insurance for 22 million people is “better care,” then I have a bridge to sell you.
Written by Betsy Ryan at 00:00

AHCA: Say No to This Disastrous Health Law

There are two sides to every issue, but I can’t accept misinformation when it comes to our health. I just saw a TV ad supporting the American Health Care Act which is irresponsible and callous in its twisting of the truth.

Rather than yelling at the TV, I’m sitting at my keyboard to counter those claims with information that has been substantiated by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which is tasked with reviewing all pending legislation for its impact on the American people. Twenty-three million people will lose their health insurance under this law, a fact that is conveniently missing from the TV ad. But among its other claims, the ad declares that the AHCA would:

  • “lower costs.” (Not true, especially if you happen to be between the ages of 50 and 64 and don’t earn much. That group – which most needs good coverage but can least afford it – would face the largest insurance price hikes under the AHCA.)
  • Provide “better coverage.” (Not true. One of the ways the AHCA aims to reduce insurance premiums is by stripping away minimum required benefits such as preventive care, hospitalization and mental health and substance use services. Of course the premiums may seem low – because they offer very little coverage. In fact, the CBO says some of the plans would be so bare bones that they wouldn’t even qualify as insurance.)
  • Provide “protections for pre-existing conditions.” (Not true. The AHCA allows states to remove the pre-existing condition protections for people with cancer, diabetes, asthma and other illnesses and replace them with high-risk pools for those individuals. The problem is, the AHCA doesn’t provide enough funding for the high-risk pools, and experts including the CBO say those living with pre-existing conditions “would ultimately be unable to purchase comprehensive nongroup health insurance at premiums comparable to those under current law, if they could purchase it at all.”

Don’t take my word for it – or the CBO’s for that matter. All you need to do is look at the groups that oppose the AHCA such as AARP, American Cancer Society, Families USA, AFL-CIO, the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association, the National Disability Rights Network, National Education Association, Children’s Defense Fund and countless others. Even America’s Health Insurance Plans – the national organization that represents insurance companies – has criticized the AHCA. These groups represent senior citizens, families, workers, consumers, healthcare professionals and patients. I trust them – not a hired TV spokesperson.

For fact-based information on the AHCA and its impact right here in New Jersey, visit our website to learn more about the 800,000 N.J. residents who could lose health insurance, the 1.8 million Medicaid beneficiaries whose care is threatened and the $4.4 billion in federal funds that New Jersey would lose. I truly believe the more you know about the AHCA, the louder you’ll say no to the AHCA. #kNOwAHCA

Written by Betsy Ryan at 00:00

My Healthcare Team Saved My Life: An Appreciation for Hospital Week and Nurses Week

It’s Hospital Week and Nurses Week, a perfect time for me to extend a heartfelt thank you to the healthcare professionals who care for us every day of the year. And this isn’t just about my job here at NJHA – it’s about the care team that saved my life.

Two years ago, I found myself admitted to the hospital near my hometown of Florence for the first time of my life (aside from giving birth to my son.)

I had lain in bed at home over a weekend in March, sidelined by a stomach pain that worsened by the hour. I deluded myself into thinking it was food poisoning. By the time I gave up that delusion, my appendix had burst and my husband had to rush me to the ED. I had sepsis, with a life-threatening infection coursing through my body. I was very, very sick in the hospital for two weeks, and much of that time is hazy. But what I do recall is the amazing skill of the medical team and the incredible human compassion of the nurses, aides, technicians and others who provided bedside care.

My healthcare experience was a sobering reminder of how vitally important our work is, and that the things we do – both large and small – affect individuals and families in profound ways. It extends from the hospital throughout our healthcare delivery system including rehabilitation facilities, behavioral health facilities, long term acute care hospitals, nursing homes, home health, hospice, medical day care, assisted living and Programs of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly. I’m here today because of it, and I thank New Jersey’s exceptional healthcare professionals for the work they do every day and every night.

Written by Betsy Ryan at 00:00

An Open Letter to the N.J. Congressional Delegation: It’s Time to Show Courage on Healthcare

I have been thinking a lot about John F. Kennedy’s book Profiles in Courage, which outlined difficult political decisions made by U.S. senators over our nation’s history. Often the decision was a balance between what was right versus intense political pressure. Our N.J. Congressional Delegation faces a difficult vote this Thursday, when Paul Ryan’s American Health Care Act is up for a vote in the House of Representatives. Here are 10 reasons why I urge every member of our delegation to vote no:
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N.J. Residents Need Coverage in ACA Replacement Plan

Today we’re getting our first close look at House Republicans’ proposal to replace the Affordable Care Act. There’s a lot to pore over, but our first and overriding concern is that access to healthcare through safety net providers does not equal coverage – and coverage is essential to good health, a strong healthcare delivery system and reduced healthcare costs.

President Trump had assured the country that no one would lose coverage under his plan, but this proposal does not provide that guarantee. The proposal to change Medicaid from a federal-state partnership to a program that simply provides per-capita lump sum payments to the states raises serious worries about the future coverage of the 553,474 New Jersey residents who are covered under Medicaid. Medicaid beneficiaries have access to a primary care doctor and preventive care under that coverage. It would be a very harmful step backward if a portion of those New Jersey residents lose coverage and return to the days when they used the hospital emergency room for all of their healthcare. That’s not good for those New Jersey residents, and it’s just not a smart way to deliver healthcare services.

Less planned and preventive care will raise healthcare costs for all. It also raises real worries about the future of hospitals. As more people gained health insurance coverage, the state significantly reduced funding for hospitals that provide charity care for the poor and uninsured. Those cuts totaled $373 million over the last three years, and Gov. Christie has proposed even deeper cuts in the next state budget. Those cuts, coupled with the proposal we see here, could gut funding for our hospitals.



Written by Default at 00:00