Topeka Hospitals talk changes due to Obamacare

TOPEKA (KSNT) – It came with controversy, delays and a lot of expectations…..but has Obamacare been the nightmare some projected?

We did an 8 month check-in with two major hospitals in the Capital City to find out.

“We didn’t know what to expect to begin with,” St. Francis Health Center Chief Medical Officer Dr. Thomas Hamilton said.

It was the great unknown. A Republican boogeyman. A Democratic solution….and universally complex.

Even before the Affordable Care Act when into effect there were problems – like its problem-plagued website.

“And the fact that the computer system didn’t work real well in the beginning…but we truly don’t see that now,” St. Francis Health Center Patient Access Director Barb Shields said.

Nor did the act impact the hospitals’ policies, procedures or operations as first feared.

While the ACA did require changes, both say they would have happened anyway.

At St. Francis, for example, the act spurred them to transition to electronic medical records.

Hospitals say the ACA has raised the bar for their care.

“If your quality is below a certain level, you have too many of a certain event, then you can get reductions in the amount that they’ll reimburse you for the care you deliver,” Hamilton said.

But how has it impacted those walking through the hospital’s doors?

“Really, most people are not going to see a lot of changes,” Stormont Vail Health Care Vice President/Chief of Primary Care Dr. Eric Voth said.

“It really hasn’t shaken out as being as big as we think it has,” Hamilton said.

But for those who didn’t have insurance before…..the sticker-shock of paying for it now, or paying a federal penalty, has been painful.

“Many of those policies now have very high deductibles and self-pay, co-pay kinds of situations and that’s been the most common thing I’ve heard of is complaints that the individual cost has been greater,” Voth said.

Neither hospital has seen the jump in patients predicted before the act went into effect in January.
Stormont Vail’s Chief of Primary Care says his big regret is that states were allowed to opt-out of the medicaid expansion.

The Sunflower State is one of the states which opted out and the Kansas Hospital Association says by doing so, we’ve left more than $190 million on the table since the start of 2014.

“One big mistake was making that a choice that people could politicize and choose to not take it,” Voth said.

Doctors say many of their fears about implementing the affordable care act never materialized.

“There really is a lot of good that has come,” Voth said.

And some of the questions now have answers.
Still, there are others….

“Now, how we pay for it…who gets it, what are the penalties….those are a lot of unanswered questions,” Voth said.

The next open enrollment for the ACA will start October 1, 2014.

If you aren’t currently enrolled, and need help doing so for yourself, family or your business…click here for resources.

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