Last week, Greater Spokane Incorporated CEO Todd Mielke and GSI’s Chairman of the Board of Trustees Larry Soehren sent a letter to members of the U.S. Congress, regarding the replacement of the Affordable Care Act. Additional coverage of the letter was included in coverage by The Spokesman-Review.
Please see the letter below for more information.
Dear Congressional Members:
On behalf of Greater Spokane Incorporated (GSI), the largest business organization in Eastern Washington, we are writing to provide input regarding the current debate and negotiations concerning the replacement of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
As a business development organization, the mission of GSI is first and foremost to protect and grow jobs and thereby create a robust, diversified economy. With that mission in mind, GSI adopted the following statement last fall as part of our federal legislative agenda pertaining to the ACA:
“Ensure that any changes to the Affordable Care Act preserve affordable access to health care for those at risk of losing coverage; prevent disruption or harm to the health care delivery system; and sustain Medicaid waivers that help states finance coverage for low-income people.”
In the current debate in Congress, it appears that some proposals might significantly reduce Medicaid funding and therefore jeopardize one of our tenets – “preserving access to health care for those at risk of losing coverage.” If such proposals are incorporated into a final legislative proposal, we would be extremely concerned about the impact to our region, and to our economy.
In the Spokane region, 1 of every 5 jobs and 20% of our economy is related to health care. Since 2013, our region has seen an increase of more than 5,200 health care-related jobs, from 37,229 to 42,460 (a 14.1% increase). CHAS Health alone increased their number of employees from slightly fewer than 500 to 750 since 2014 (a 50% increase). We are truly the largest regional provider of health care services between Seattle and Minneapolis.
Much of this job growth was the result of the ACA providing previously uninsured people with access to coverage through Medicaid or the insurance exchange. Spokane County experienced the largest increase in Medicaid enrollments in the State. This resulted in the Spokane region reducing the number of uninsured from approximately 17% of its population to only 3% today. Additionally, people in surrounding communities often travel to Spokane to access care. These two population groups seeking health care services have greatly increased the demand for more health care services and the professionals who provide them.
We recognize that the core elements of the American Health Care Act (AHCA) that was passed out of the House will likely change as it moves through the Senate; however, as currently written, we recognize that:
1. A dramatic reduction in the number of citizens eligible to receive coverage through Medicaid as proposed in the AHCA will result in far more unreimbursed charity care being provided.
2. The proposed reduction in the levels of reimbursement to health care providers will financially harm the health care delivery system.
3. These changes will ultimately lead to significant job loss in this vital sector of our economy.
GSI recognizes that “health care reform” is an extremely complex issue. We also recognize that there are many facets of this issue, including insurance reforms, access to both private and public sector health insurance, access to providers, the affordability of both insurance premiums and health care products/services, and adequate reimbursements to medical providers to cover the cost of care.
As Congress moves forward with its deliberations, please consider the negative ramifications to our region’s job base and economy should more people find themselves without health insurance or Medicaid coverage.
Thank you for your consideration of our input regarding this extremely important and highly complex issue.
Please don’t hesitate to contact us should you have any questions regarding the information that has been presented.
Greater Spokane Incorporated
Larry F. Soehren
Chairman of the Board
Greater Spokane Incorporated