Affordable Care Act repeal could have severe repercussions for SLO County hospitals

Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center in San Luis Obispo has added a team of specialists to provide advanced stroke care.
Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center in San Luis Obispo has added a team of specialists to provide advanced stroke care.

No debate is more intense with more potential consequences for San Luis Obispo County residents than the “repeal and replacement” of the Affordable Care Act, sometimes referred to as “Obamacare.” More importantly, its collateral impact on our local hospitals could be far more severe, well beyond the funding impact on our county government.

The scope of hospital cuts under some proposals in Washington could total an unprecedented $50 billion in California alone. This will compromise our ability to maintain our commitment to all San Luis Obispo County residents, a commitment that starts with about 2,000 babies delivered and more than 57,000 emergency department visits last year at Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center and Twin Cities Community Hospital.

Together, we represent the bulk of the county’s hospital safety net, providing 24/7/365 emergency, trauma and related services to anyone coming through our doors. Last year, this included providing $22 million in charity care and other discounted services to local residents.

Beyond these services, our hospitals have local impacts that might surprise many residents. We employed more than 1,250 people who received more than $123 million in wages, salaries and benefits. Our hospitals paid more than $2.4 million in property and sales taxes and invested another $2 million in capital improvements.

We want to continue helping county residents get and stay healthy, to manage their health care challenges and provide high-quality care and services to all. What keeps us up at night is wondering how we are going to be able to provide all of these services and investments for our community if California’s gains under the Affordable Care Act are reversed.

How to contact federal officials White House: Email through a form or call 202-456-1111 to leave comments or 202-456-1414 to reach the switchboard. Sen. Kamala Harris: Email through a form or call 202-224-3553 to reach her Washington, D.C., office. Sen. Dianne Feinstein: Email through a form or call 202-224-3841 to reach her Washington, D.C., office. Rep. Salud Carbajal: Email through a form; call his San Luis Obispo office at 805-546-8348 or his Washington, D.C., office at 202-225-3601; write him at 1411 Marsh St., Suite 205, San Luis Obispo 93401.

We worry about the potential impact on our local suppliers and other vendors and, in turn, on their employees.

We worry about absorbing more charity care if the 75,000 local residents who now have coverage through Medi-Cal or the state insurance market lose their coverage.

We are committed to continuing our investment in health care for our community by developing new services and enhancing existing ones so people can stay close to home for their care. But if Washington proceeds with cuts to the Affordable Care Act and leaves a $50 billion funding gap for Californians, patients and communities will suffer.

We will remain passionate in our advocacy both here at home and in Washington and Sacramento, staying in close contact with our federal and state elected officials. We urge all county residents, business owners, local government officials and chambers of commerce to express their own concerns to their state and national elected officials about how losing insurance coverage will impact them. We want our tomorrows to be healthier ones.

Mark Lisa is chief executive officer of Twin Cities Community Hospital in Templeton. Tim Menton is interim chief executive officer at Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center in San Luis Obispo. Both hospitals are affiliates of Tenet Healthcare.

About half of Americans still have health care through their employers. The Affordable Care Act affected employer-based health care plans, changing rules on lifetime limits and pre-existing conditions, birth control and much more. If the Trump adm