Hospital Leaders Praise Clyburn and Urge Passage of Health Care Reform

Columbia, SC, March 19, 2010 -- Given the rising cost of health coverage and the rate at which people are losing coverage, the number of uninsured South Carolinians is likely to skyrocket if Congress doesn't pass health care reform, according to hospital leaders throughout the state.

That's why South Carolina hospital leaders are urging the U.S. House of Representatives to pass health reform this week-end and thanking Congressman James Clyburn of South Carolina's Sixth District for his strong leadership on the issue. As Majority Whip in the U.S. House of Representatives, the third ranking position in the House, Congressman Clyburn is responsible for ensuring there are enough votes to pass the legislation.

Without reform, the number of Americans without coverage could climb as high as 58 million by 2014, according to an estimate by the Urban Institute. In South Carolina, the number without insurance could reach nearly 900,000 by 2014 if steps are not taken to cover the uninsured. As the number of uninsured increases, insurance will become even less affordable to the middle class American, causing even more people to go without coverage.

"Congressman Clyburn understands what is at stake for South Carolinians and has worked as hard as anyone to pass reform," said Jim O"Loughlin, CEO, Carolinas Health System in Florence and chairman-elect of the South Carolina Hospital Association (SCHA). "The entire nation is fortunate that he is involved in this important debate, and we in the sixth district are proud of his leadership," O"Loughlin added.

Today, an estimated 764,000 South Carolinians have no insurance, and when they get sick they go to a hospital emergency room to see a doctor. " South Carolina hospitals are providing more than $1 billion in care each year for which there is no direct payment and which is passed on to the those with insurance," explains George Zara, CEO of Providence Hospitals in Columbia.

But few expect the private insurers to continue footing the bill for the shortfall. "We"re seeing employers, who supplement the cost of coverage for their workers, laying off workers and increasing out-of-pocket costs for those who remain on the job. Some employers are dropping coverage, and those not offering coverage have little incentive to do so under the current system," said Zara, who serves on the SCHA board.

Ninety-four percent of the state's hospitals surveyed on the economic impact of the recession reported an increase in annual visits to emergency rooms by uninsured persons. "The hospital emergency room is the only insurance those 764,000 uninsured South Carolinians have," Zara said.

Meaningful reform has to include a way to cover more people and spread the cost fairly, and it has to direct patients to the most efficient place to receive care. "Primary care clinics and physician offices must be paid to see patients who are now forced to sit in the emergency room because they can't pay upfront for services," according to Don Lloyd, CEO of Marion County Medical Center.|

As more people become uninsured and health care costs and insurance premiums continue to rise to cover the cost of their care, everyone's coverage becomes more fragile. "Many of the people being added to the Medicaid program or the list of those with no insurance were well-insured, middle class workers not so long ago. They also felt secure knowing they had health coverage until they lost their jobs or their employers cut health benefits to reduce expenses," Lloyd said.

About the South Carolina Hospital Association
Founded in 1921, the South Carolina Hospital Association (SCHA) is the leadership organization and principal advocate for the state's hospitals and health care systems. Based in Columbia, SCHA works with its members to improve access, quality and cost-effectiveness of health care for all South Carolinians. The state's hospitals and healthcare systems employ more than 70,000 persons statewide.

03-19-2010 12:00 (EDT)