Recommits to extending payments for Georgia safety-net hospitals

WATCH: Isakson delivers remarks regarding the extension of payments to disproportionate-share hospitals

during a Senate Finance Committee vote on Oct. 4, 2017.

U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., today applauded committee passage of legislation he cosponsored to continue the state Children’s Health Insurance Program, known as CHIP, for five years.

The bipartisan Keeping Kids’ Insurance Dependable and Secure Act, S.1827, also transitions CHIP to its traditional federal-state partnership over time and provides additional protections for low-income children and flexibility for states.

During his opening remarks, Isakson reiterated his commitment to ensuring payments to safety-net hospitals are extended before the end of the year. Isakson highlighted the negative impact to Georgia hospitals if payments to disproportionate-share hospitals that treat uninsured patients in Georgia are reduced. Under the current Affordable Care Act law, payments to safety-net hospitals are now eligible to be cut unless Congress acts to keep the payments at current levels.

“In Georgia, that’s going to be a loss of $780 million over seven years to our most needy hospitals,” said Isakson. “It’s going to mean people most in need of health care are not going to have it there. The [Affordable Care Act’s] promise was that everyone would be insured, so disproportionate-share payments would be withdrawn.”

These safety-net hospitals receive some federal funding through Medicaid and CHIP for accepting low-income patients, but Obamacare would begin withdrawing these payments in 2018 under the flawed premise that all individuals receiving hospital care would have insurance.

“Our experience has found that not to be true,” said Isakson.“These hospitals are treating people and not being compensated, and if we continue to reduce DSH [disproportionate-share hospital] payments, we’ll see that many hospitals that are open today will not be open. So I will be working between now and the end of the year, hopefully with all of you, to extend the [current] DSH payments for two more years, at least until 2018 and 2019.”

At today’s committee vote on the CHIP legislation, Isakson filed two amendments to the Keeping Kids’ Insurance Dependable and Secure Act to extend DSH payments for 2018 and 2019 and to provide greater fairness for hospitals in states such as Georgia that have a high uninsured population. Although the amendments could not be attached to the CHIP measure under the Finance Committee’s rules, Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, committed to working in the weeks ahead on extending other health care programs with expiring authorizations.

The Keeping Kids’ Insurance Dependable and Secure Act, passed the Senate Committee on Finance by a voice vote and now moves to the full Senate for consideration.

The Keeping Kids’ Insurance Dependable and Secure Act would:

  • Extend the Children’s Health Insurance Program funding through fiscal year 2022;
  • Maintain the federal matching rate at current statutory levels through fiscal year 2019, change to 11.5 percent for fiscal year 2020, and return to a traditional matching rate for fiscal years 2021 and 2022; and
  • Create protections and flexibility under the maintenance-of-effort provision.