The fate of Nebraska hospitals under the Affordable Care Act

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Updated: Mon, 23 Sep 2013 06:53:33 CST

There are more than 100 hospitals across the state of Nebraska.  And from accidents to illnesses, thousands of Nebraskans depend on those hospitals every day.

And now that we're just days away from the Affordable Care Act's enrollment opening, what does the ACA mean for our hospitals?

"We've been excellent at providing medical care. In the future we need to be excellent at providing health," said Rob Cunningham, Vice President of Ancillary & Support Services at Good Samaritan Hospital.

And in providing health, our current hospital-centric model will be no more. Hospitals will now be encouraged to work more closely with the community to keep Nebraskans healthy, which means with the Affordable Care Act, hospitalization will now be looked at as a healthcare failure.

"We are intentionally designing processes and care delivery models that keep people out of the hospital so in a sense, we are investing in a business model that undercuts our current payment model," said Dr. Michael Hein, Vice President of Medical Affairs at Saint Francis Medical Center.

Both Dr. Hein and Cunningham agree this new model is worrisome, but they both say it's for the best. And with more Americans expected to be insured under the ACA, it could mean hospitals are now receiving payments from previously uninsured patients.

"Everybody wants to be paid for the work that they do but at the end of the day our mission is to always make sure that we're taking care of those that need our help," said Cunningham.

And Cunningham says just because hospitals will no longer be the center of medicine, it doesn't mean we won't still need the people that keep the hospitals running.

"To think that somehow healthcare would not need nurses or physicians or respiratory therapists or radiation technologists just isn't true. But we'll have need for all sorts of other things and maybe just not in a hospital. Maybe in another setting," said Cunningham.

But where exactly will that setting be? And will this be a positive change for healthcare providers? Many questions remain for hospitals and only time will tell as the future unfolds.

"What is definitely certain is that our current way of delivering care is unsustainable. So we have to change, and so that's for certain, and we will change, and that's for certain," said Dr. Hein.

And how should you be preparing for that change?  On the next Changing Face of Healthcare, we take a look at the October 1st enrollment opening and what you need to know.