Brooklyn Hospital Center See Ominous Future under Obamacare

BROOKLYN —As many Fort Greene and Clinton Hill residents eagerly await the full implementation of the Affordable Care Act, the Brooklyn Hospital Center sees an ominous future under the law.

When the law is fully implemented in January 2014, Medicaid eligibility will expand coverage to an additional 16 million Americans. According to Richard Becker, president and CEO of Brooklyn Hospital Center, under Obamacare the hospital will lose 100 million dollars in Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement.

Dr. Becker did not respond to phone calls. Catherine Derr, Vice President of Communications at Brooklyn Hospital Center, did not have a ready answer when asked how the law would affect the hospital and what preparations were in place to deal with the new policies.

“It’s a very complicated process and situation,” she said.

The federal government has already begun cutting Medicare reimbursements to hospitals. A central tenet of the law’s Medicare provision aims to increase the quality of care for seniors by making Medicare reimbursement contingent upon positive results.  That means that hospitals receive higher reimbursement based on reduced readmissions.  The law places the impetus on hospitals to reduce costs and provide better care.

Judy Wessler of the Committee on the Public’s Health System welcomes the Affordable Care Act and said it would be “disturbing” if “institutions are thinking about this in terms of their pocketbooks.”

One million of Brooklyn’s residents, about forty percent, currently receive Medicaid.  Fort Greene has the second poorest neighborhood in the city, and a large number of Brooklyn Hospital Center’s patients are on Medicaid.

However, it is unclear how the law’s Medicaid expansion will affect New Yorkers. Many of the law’s reforms have already been implemented by existing state law. In April of this year, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the country’s largest philanthropic organization devoted to public health, released a report on the implementation of the Affordable Care Act in New York State.  The report concluded that the ACA’s Medicaid expansion would not have much impact on new Medicaid enrollment in the state.

Fort Greene resident Lawrence Hunter, a 39-year-old security worker who is uninsured, walked past Brooklyn Hospital Center on his way to take the subway to work on a recent Saturday afternoon. He said he did not expect to see much difference in his situation. However, Hunter said he thought the law was good, but like everything, comes at a cost.

It has a give and take,” Hunter said. “It’s good for certain people and bad for

hospitals and pharmaceutical companies.”

The hospital’s finances are of little concern to Fort Greene resident James Mitchel. He says that if the hospital has to “tighten up somewhere else” in order to deal with

the new law, that’s fair.

“People need help right now.  It (healthcare) should be affordable for everybody,” he said.