As a not-for-profit, faith-based health system, Mount Carmel strongly believes that health care is a right for individuals in our country. We work diligently to develop ways to provide access to care for all patients.
These efforts include our outreach program with the Mount Carmel Mobile Coach, the numerous clinics set up to care for the underserved and our partnerships with the region’s federally qualified community health centers, as well as providing millions of dollars in charity care and other community benefit annually, including nearly $89 million worth in the past fiscal year.
With a belief that health care is a basic human right and that expanding access to it is both a moral and practical imperative, Mount Carmel applauded Gov. John Kasich’s decision to include a pathway for the working poor in Ohio to access care in his budget bill.While it is true that this extension of benefits will help hospitals receive some reimbursement for providing what would otherwise be uncompensated care, our support of this proposal is based on Mount Carmel’s commitment to the working poor in Ohio.
These individuals should be the focus of the discussion of Kasich’s proposal. Unfortunately, that has not been the case.
At this time, Ohio lawmakers have chosen not to consider this important issue during budget-bill deliberations. While Mount Carmel is disappointed at this decision, we continue to urge our elected leaders to work together to pass this extension of coverage for the working poor. This action should be taken as soon as possible and certainly prior to Jan. 1, 2014, when the funding for extended eligibility becomes available under federal health-care reform.
The impact of this extension is remarkable, but that fact sadly has been lost in the discussion. An estimated 275,000 Ohioans, nearly 98,000 of whom are in central Ohio, would have access to heath benefits under Kasich’s budget blueprint. These are individuals who currently have very limited means to access primary care, and many ultimately delay care until their conditions worsen and they seek treatment in an emergency department.
Despite the fact that hospitals provide care for all patients in our emergency departments regardless of their ability to pay, this setting is not an efficient and effective way to provide primary care. Nor is it best for patients.
The General Assembly has an opportunity to improve upon this fragmented system by taking advantage of a once-in-a-generation chance to provide meaningful health-care coverage to Ohio’s working poor. Kasich has assembled a very knowledgeable team comprised of Greg Moody, director of the Office of Health Transformation, and Ohio Medicaid Director John McCarthy; they stand ready to continue providing innovations within the Medicaid program.
While these continued innovations may take time to additionally improve quality of care and reduce cost, overall reform can be truly effective only if we remove barriers to care for Ohio’s working poor.
The overall economic realities of this extension of coverage also are positive for Ohio. That is one of the reasons that Mount Carmel and the central Ohio hospital community are pleased to partner with the Columbus Chamber and the Columbus Partnership to support extending access to coverage through Medicaid.
Economics aside, this is an issue about right and wrong. We urge Ohio’s lawmakers to do what is right, moral and just, and provide this extension of health benefits to the working poor in our state.
CLAUS von ZYCHLIN
President and Chief Executive Officer
Mount Carmel Health System