Hospitals ready for health act


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Starting Jan. 1, the Affordable Care Act will likely mean hospitals around the country will see more patients, because more will be insured.  Many hospitals in Iowa are prepared for an increase — but officials say they are not concerned.

Iowa Hospital Association communications director Scott McIntyre said the act will lead to more people being insured, which could lead to more patients in the hospitals.

“The tradeoff [was] more people would be insured through Medicaid expansion, meaning less impact on hospital charity care,” he said. “I don’t think we’ll see a lot of unusual populations of people seeking out services from the hospital. Probably the main change is we will see more people because more people will be insured so hospitals need to be prepared … and that’s always a challenge.”

Hospitals will have to plan for this increase in patient volume through various means, McIntyre said, one of which could be increasing staff.

An increase in staff is something the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics is prepared for, UI spokesman Tom Moore said.

“Any new staff or faculty are reviewed [to ensure they are of high quality],” he said. “If there is a need to hire new faculty or staff … we will hire those first-line staff. We are prepared to react to any potential or possible increase to patient volumes should the need arrive.”

Officials at Unity Point Health St. Luke’s in Sioux City said they are also unsure how the health-care reform could affect patient load, but they are ready to adapt to any change.

“We’re still in a wait-and-see mode,” Leslie Heying of St. Luke’s said. “Our plan is to really adjust our staffing due to our patient volume.”

One other Iowa hospital said that despite the Affordable Care Act, its goal is to continue to try to decrease the number of patients staying at the hospital.

“I would anticipate … that we wouldn’t see an increase from Medicare reforms,” said Shannon McQuillen, the director of marketing and public relations at Unity Point Health in Fort Dodge, Iowa. “Our goal is to reduce inpatient volumes, to keep people healthy and out of the hospital.”

Jenny White, revenue cycle director at St. Luke’s Hospital in Cedar Rapids, said that hospital is also trying to engage in preventative care, though officials still expect some increase.

“We don’t really expect a huge increase in the amount of patients,” she said. “We would anticipate that there would be some increase … we’ll need to make tremendous accommodations. We’re actively working on how we’re going to manage this.”

St. Luke’s is also using this change as an opportunity to increase the level of care it can provide, even for uninsured patients, White said.

“We recently added certified application counselors here at our hospital,” she said. “When patients come in and don’t have insurance … they can actually make an appointment [and learn how to apply for insurance]. That’s an addition to our staff that we’re really excited to offer.”

DI reporter Lily Abromeit contributed to this story.

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