For those who work in the safety net the future may feel uncertain, especially in this new political landscape. The stakes are high: Although the future of the Affordable Care Act is uncertain and information is rapidly changing, more than twenty-million Americans could lose their insurance coverage and health centers across the country could lose funding.
So what can safety net providers do to prepare? “Don’t hit the panic button, but sound the alarms and get prepared,” says Bobbie Wunsch, Founder and Partner, Pacific Health Consulting Group.
- Reassure and talk with your staff, board, patients and communities regularly. Tell them your health centers will stay open and you will be there for your patients no matter what.
- Get patients into care. Enroll patients in insurance and get them as much care as they need over the next 18-24 months. No matter what happens, we do have period of time before any changes are implemented.
- Turn back the clock. To understand what your financial picture might look like in a new environment, look at your payer mix in 2009-2010 from before the Affordable Care Act.You’ve done this work under these circumstances before, but you need to educate yourself, your board and your leadership team about what ‘back to the future’ might look like.
- Talk with your county about how they are thinking about their obligation under Section 17000 of the Welfare and Institutions Code and indigent care programs that were reduced with the implementation of the ACA.
- Educate your Republican Congressional representatives about the impact of potential changes in their districts. They need to become your new best friends. They should know how many people will be affected, what the health status of those individuals are and what the economic impact of these changes in their districts.
- Seek out efficiencies in your work. Look at the growth you’ve created with the increased number of insured individuals. If the clock is turned back, how will that affect internal operations?
- Build financial reserves. Continue to focus on that so you go into this period strong, stronger than you’ve ever been from a financial point of view.
- Engage in scenario and contingency planning. Ask yourselves: What if we lose a large number of our insured base? Plan for worst-case and best-case scenarios.
- Don’t be paralyzed. Be strong and committed to the mission of your organization and the principles we all hold so true. There is a lot we can do to get prepared for the coming storm.
About Bobbie Wunsch: Bobbie Wunsch is a successful management consultant with over 30 years experience in the healthcare industry. As partner of Pacific Health Consulting Group, Bobbie specializes in the restructuring and financing of healthcare delivery organizations, primarily safety net providers.