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Various & Sundry: Importance of navigators; insurance co's now allied w/gov't; TX hospitals pushing for Medicaid expansion

CLEVELAND, Ohio – A new report released Monday by Universal Health Care Action Network of Ohio (UHCAN) is sharing the challenges people faced during the first open enrollment period through the Affordable Care Act, and is providing suggestions on how to improve access, especially for people living in communities of color.

Based on the findings of the report, conducted with the think tank PolicyBridge  and funded by the Mt. Sinai Health Care Foundation, UHCAN is recommending that enrollment navigators and other assisters be more available and accessible in neighborhood and community-based sites. The network is also recommending that follow-up services be provided for people new to insurance, not only to help connect them with a primary care provider, but to make sure they know how to use that insurance.

As Americans shop in the health insurance marketplace for a second year, President Barack Obama is depending more than ever on the insurance companies that five years ago he accused of padding profits and canceling coverage for the sick.

Those same insurers have long viewed government as an unreliable business partner that imposed taxes, fees and countless regulations and had the power to cut payment rates and cap profit margins.

But since the Affordable Care Act was enacted in 2010, the relationship between the Obama administration and insurers has evolved into a powerful, mutually beneficial partnership that has been a boon to the nation's largest private health plans and led to a profitable surge in their Medicaid enrollment.

Expanding Medicaid may be anathema to Texas political leaders. For hospitals, though, it would be a godsend.

Baylor University Medical Center lost $172.8 million on uncompensated care last year.

Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas reported uncompensated care of $86.5 million. Methodist Dallas Medical Center reported $154.7 million.

And Parkland Health and Hospital System reported $1.488 billion of uncompensated care.

The figures are from www.txpricepoint.org and the American Hospital Directory. They represent what hospitals report as losses based on what they’d normally charge patients. Patients insured by Medicare or Medicaid and with private insurance companies don’t pay anywhere near those top prices. Even the uninsured are offered discounts.