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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Providence executive criticizes Graham-Cassidy bill as ‘same dangerous policy’

Providence Health Care’s chief executive used blunt language Friday to describe the Graham-Cassidy bill to overturn the Affordable Care Act.

“It’s a bad bill,” Elaine Couture said. “This is the same dangerous policy proposal as the legislation that failed to advance out of the Senate earlier this summer.”

The proposal goes even further in its impacts to Medicaid, capping and curtailing spending, said Couture, who oversees Providence hospitals in Eastern Washington and Montana.

About 1.8 million Washington residents receive health insurance through Medicaid. About 600,000 of those Medicaid recipients are newly covered under the Affordable Care Act.

“We have vulnerable adults and children who would lose their coverage, including elderly who are in nursing home facilities and depend on Medicaid funding in order to stay in those facilities,” Couture said. “The health insurance market would continue to destabilize. If the measure passes, it would affect the future well-being of whole communities in Washington state, including Spokane.”

Couture was in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, meeting with U.S. senators from Montana and Washington and their staffs about health care reform. The Affordable Care Act needs tweaking, she said, but throwing out the whole act “destabilizes everything we’ve been working for.”

If the Graham-Cassidy bill passes, Couture predicted hits to the local economy from job losses in the health care sector. For consumers, that would make it harder to get in to see a doctor or other health care professional, she said. The result is delayed treatment and higher costs, she said.

“Anytime people don’t have the ability to access health care, they are going to come again through the most expensive venue, which is the emergency room,” Couture said. “That’s not a consistent way to get health care or to really improve the health of the community.”