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Hospitals, Both Rural And Urban, Dread Losing Ground With Health Law Repeal

By Kaiser Health News  
   February 28, 2017

"That certainly would impact jobs at Vista," Martin said. "We're going to go back to those days where hospitals were closing."

But Edmund Haislmaier, a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, said the U.S. already pays too much for health care. A member of President Donald Trump's transition team on health policy, Haislmaier said communities — and states and local governments — shouldn't rely on hospitals to create jobs and fill budget holes.

"Hospitals, in particular, have become economic development projects," he said. "If you're paying tax dollars for Medicare or Medicaid, treating that as an economic development project is a problem, not a benefit."

More than a dozen top Republican lawmakers declined to be interviewed for this story. But a spokeswoman for Sen. Lamar Alexander, the Tennessee Republican who chairs the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, said in a statement that Alexander "is listening to hospitals, doctors, patients, state insurance commissioners, governors" as they draft the replacement plan.

The most recent draft of the Republican's proposal would eliminate the Medicaid expansion, which covers 14 million people, by 2020. To offset the increase in uninsured patients, the plan would reverse some of the payment cuts to hospital.

Back in Chicago, patients like Earl Williams have been bringing their questions to their doctors, with the hope of some clarity.

At a recent checkup, Williams asked pointedly, "Am I going to have insurance in a month or two? That's kind of scary for brothers that's in the community."

"You and I have been knowing each other for a long time, and I'm going to give it to you straight," responded William's physician, Dr. Pete Thomas. "And that is: It's likely that it's going to change. It's not going to be the same."

PBS NewsHour producer Jason Kane contributed to this story.

Kaiser Health News is a national health policy news service that is part of the nonpartisan Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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