Endangered Expansion


June 30, 2017

This week we have had the opportunity to chat with some health leaders for further perspective on the Senate health bill. Today Tim Putnam, CEO of Margaret Mary Health, joined us to discuss the recent Senate Health Bill and how it may affect rural communities.

We asked Putnam to provide us with an overview of Margaret Mary Health, a non-for-profit critical access hospital in Batesville, Indiana.

He explained, “We are a small, rural community in Indiana, 6,500 people. Our hospital is critical access, and quite frankly we are focused on our mission to improve the health of our community.”

We asked how the Senate Health Bill impacts Indiana’s Medicaid expansion.

“Well, we are very proud of how Indiana expanded Medicaid. We have 400 thousand people in the state of Indiana that have been included in what we refer to as, The Healthy Indiana Plan, or the Medicaid expansion. We feel that the cuts that are proposed in the Senate Bill, $700 billion in cuts, endanger that expansion. It really was an expansion between then-Governor Mike Pence and the Obama Administration, really working together to find something that fit The Affordable Care Act and worked for Indiana. I think we really have a good solution,” explained Putnam.

We asked if he could provide us with some examples of the Indiana expansion and how it benefited.

“Quite honestly, the best example I have is in Austin, Indiana, a town of 4,000 people. They faced an epidemic of Hepatitis C and HIV. We had over 200 that were HIV or Hepatitis C positive, many of which were not covered by insurance, and didn’t have access to Medicaid or insurance through any other program. The Healthy Indiana Plan, the expansion of Medicaid, allowed many people of these people to get coverage. You can imagine what it would be like in a small town when you have that many people infectious and not being able to be treated for their disease,” he mentioned.

We asked him to explain how the Senate Bill will affect those issues.

Putnam stated, “The massive cuts really will endanger the ability to – I mean you have seen the numbers: 22 million people, that will potentially lose coverage. A lot of people think of health care is this voluntary thing, saying that you can choose to be covered or not. But when you think about a situation like that in Austin – when you have 200 people that are infectious, in a small town like that, not having coverage, not being able to keep their disease under control – it can really exacerbate an epidemic. From a public health standpoint, that’s what we are concerned about. Other concerns are just the working families that cannot afford care for the children or themselves. It really creates a problem.”

For the future, we asked what he would like to see moving forward.

“Always we want to look at a rural focus on this. People in cities, people with a lot of physicians, a lot of coverage, can get the care they need. But for rural communities, like ours, we really suffer from that. We are generally older, generally poorer, and generally more dependent on primary and preventative care. I really wish we had a focus on preventative care and the things that keep a population healthy,” said Putnam.