Mercy: Medicaid expansion needed


Your Jan. 21 editorial “Healthier Ohio” supported Medicaid expansion in Ohio. Mercy, one of the largest health systems in the Toledo region and part of Catholic Health Partners, the largest health-care provider in Ohio, also supports the expansion of Medicaid. Access to high-quality health care would create healthier communities in Toledo and across Ohio.

By law, and for Mercy by mission, Ohio hospitals provide medically necessary care to all sick or injured people, including uninsured individuals with incomes at or below the federal poverty line. When uninsured patients can’t pay for their care, the financial burden is shared by health-care providers and those who pay for health-care services.

Hospital uncompensated-care levels are at all-time highs. In the past five years, Ohio hospitals’ uncompensated-care costs have increased by more than 50 percent. In 2011, Mercy provided almost $80 million in community benefit.

Even though Medicaid covers only part of the cost of providing care — 83 cents on the dollar — covering more uninsured Ohioans through Medicaid would provide some degree of counterbalance to the spiraling shift of costs to families, employers, and hospitals.

There may be questions about whether Ohio can afford Medicaid expansion. But the state has an opportunity to build a more flexible Medicaid program, with greater opportunities for personal responsibility, less cost-shifting onto privately insured families and employers, and less financial risk for the state.

Even more important, hospitals throughout Ohio, including Mercy, are showing real results in containing Medicaid costs.

Medicaid spending for the current fiscal year is tracking below projections. The state has spent about $6.2 billion on Medicaid since July. That’s about $219 million — or 3 percent less — than it is expected to spend through November, 2013, according to the latest data available.

Ohio hospitals continuously seek to be more efficient in our delivery and coordination of care. Our industry’s focus on prevention and disease management has reduced costs. That’s great news and something Mercy has been working toward for years: keeping people out of the hospital.

Mercy primary-care physician practices are making the transition to patient-centered medical homes. In those homes, patients are engaged in their health care so as to not only to treat their chronic conditions, but also to manage their care overall and lead to prevention of more serious illnesses.

Hospitals recognize that enhancing and streamlining the Medicaid program will present certain challenges. As the front line of health care, Mercy encourages policy makers to take advantage of this chance to help secure a better health-care system for Ohio.

Andrea Price

President and Chief Executive Officer Mercy Jefferson Avenue