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Health care law would mean more money for Swedish

Even as the mammoth Swedish Hospital is trying to interpret how the Affordable Care Act will impact its services, it’s celebrating the Supreme Court decision not to toss the law out altogether.

Since it was founded 102 years ago, the nonprofit hospital has sought to serve the community as a whole, regardless of a patient’s ability to pay, said John Milne, vice president of Swedish medical affairs. “In many ways, this is really just an extension of the mission we’ve had as an organization,” he said.

If more patients had access to regular physicians, then the hospital would likely see fewer patients in the emergency room, he said.

Since Swedish doesn’t turn patients away, each year the hospital racks in over $100 million in uncompensated care. If all patients had coverage, the hospital would at least get some reimbursement from federal programs, although it may not cover the total costs.

While Swedish doesn’t intend to change its patient to doctor ratios when the law goes into effect, it’s focusing on taking on so many new patients at once.

“It’s a process for us having to work smarter, not necessarily harder, with staff,” Milne said.

The hospital already has put forward a number of programs and ideas for how to best use the staff it has.

When the Issaquah hospital opened, it touted the efficiency of its emergency rooms.

The Supreme Court did strike down a part of the law, which could impact Medicaid coverage in some states. However, all the physicians in the Swedish Medical Group already accept patients with federal health care plans.

“It is ultimately going to be a positive thing,” Milne said, adding, “It’s going to take us several years to see the net ramifications as it moves into implementation side.”

Celeste Gracey is a reporter for the Issaquah-Sammamish Reporter, a sister paper of the Mercer Island Reporter.

 

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