- Experts say they are concerned about the effects that the elimination of the Affordable Care Act could have on nursing homes.
- They say nursing home residents could have limited options and could lose some protections if Obamacare is dismantled.
- They add that nursing home employees could lose some of their healthcare benefits without the program.
The Affordable Care Act — better known as Obamacare — was signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2010.
It was designed to expand Medicaid and Medicare as well as provide medical coverage for uninsured Americans.
The Obamacare program is now facing its biggest challenge yet from the Trump administration. Late last month, the White House asked the U.S. Supreme Court to throw out the act because it’s unconstitutional.
The timing of the move, coming in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, couldn’t be worse, according to experts interviewed by Healthline.
“Any move to dismantle the Affordable Care Act during the unprecedented economic and healthcare hardships from the COVID-19 pandemic would be disastrous,” explained Dr. Don L. Goldenberg, professor emeritus of medicine, at Tufts University School of Medicine in Massachusetts.
“This pandemic has forced our country to face glaring healthcare inequities,” Goldenberg told Healthline.
“Our vulnerable patient groups will continue to bear the burden of the pandemic and be a persistent source of infection in the population as a whole.”
The pandemic has exposed the problems that many nursing homes are facing in the United States.
These facilities house older adults who are most vulnerable to COVID-19. In addition, the homes contain the close quarters inherent to any shared living situation as well as overworked employees.
A USA Today analysis suggested that up to 40 percent of U.S. deaths from COVID-19 have taken place in nursing homes or long-term care facilities.
“Nursing homes have been at the front line of these healthcare disparities,” Goldenberg said.
“Over-crowding, poor infection control, short-staffing, lack of registered nurse supervision, and inadequate protective equipment have added to the morbidity and mortality of vulnerable residents and staff.”
In addition, the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living told MarketWatch that they are concerned about Medicaid reimbursements to providers if Obamacare is eliminated.
Another expert told MarketWatch that the dismantling of the Affordable Care Act could strip many nursing home employees of their healthcare coverage as well as weaken patient protections and limit long-term options.
With these challenges in mind, experts say it’s more important than ever to have Obamacare in place.
“The Affordable Care Act is something that was created with a good reason, and personally I believe it should stay,” Dr. Giuseppe Aragona, general practitioner and family doctor at Prescription Doctor, told Healthline.
“The idea of it being dismantled will put many poor families at the risk of being in debt, and not being able to get basic medical care at all,” Aragona said.
“This could cost people their lives. Medical care should be universal, but at the very least it should be affordable. Nursing homes are under a huge strain already, and this would just cause more and more problems as time goes on.”
Dr. David Hatfield is the chief medical officer of Hatfield Medical Group in Phoenix.
While Arizona has seen a surge of COVID-19 cases in recent weeks, Hatfield notes that his group was at the forefront of testing efforts and affirms his commitment to caring for patients.
“We were the first healthcare provider to offer any COVID-19 testing at all in the entire state back in March,” he told Healthline.
“For us, supporting patients with their insurance and navigating their options is something we have been doing. We’re ready to support our patients with an entire team devoted to insurance support.”
Hatfield points out that the effects of the pandemic are being felt by older adults across the country. While he and his colleagues will support their patients whether the Affordable Care Act is dismantled or not, he points out some of the benefits of Obamacare that could be lost.
“The [ACA] made it possible for more patients to consider managed care plans for their Medicare coverage. For us, that has been central to our growth and the ability for our providers to practice medicine at the top of their license,” he said.
“Managed care has meant more benefits and allows us to do more for our patients at the primary care level to reduce wasteful spending system-wide.”
With the fate of the ACA up in the air until the Supreme Court hears arguments on it later this year, the course of the pandemic over the coming months may just underline the importance of widespread healthcare coverage.
“The ACA has increased quality control and has increased long-term insurance options for nursing home residents and providers,” said Goldenberg.
“This is the time when we need to increase such efforts, not block them.”