Editor’s note: This op-ed first appeared in the Log Cabin Democrat. Rep. Doug House (R-North Little Rock), a first-term Republican, represents House District 40.

Why do I support the private option?

My overriding concern is to keep our local hospitals open. Most of us will suffer an inevitable serious illness or injury. Insurance, wealth, Medicare, Medicaid, and charity are of little value if hospitals are closed and care is limited. Obamacare has taken billions of dollars that kept our hospitals open, and gave the Legislature two options to get our money back and keep our hospitals open. We could put people on Medicaid or buy health insurance.

Private hospitals do well. I applaud free-market enterprises that earn profits and pay taxes. Many provide only specialized service, and may legally limit care to those who can pay. It is our local public and charitable hospitals that provide comprehensive and emergency care to any in need. Such hospitals provide hundreds of millions of dollars in charity care, and incur millions in bad debts. Income is reinvested, not returned to the owners. Non-profit hospitals are the backbone of medical care. They deserve accolades, but they must have financial support. Bad debts and Obamacare cuts threaten services, layoffs, closures, purchases of equipment and supplies, recruitment of employees, and construction.

Regardless of what Arkansas does, Obamacare has imposed higher taxes and higher insurance premiums, exchanges, mandated insurance, and cuts to hospitals. It also threw responsibility for the poor on the State. Hundreds of thousands of Arkansans without insurance continue to go to hospital emergency rooms for care. With Obamacare’s cuts, hospitals can’t continue to absorb the costs of this care. Doing nothing won’t repeal Obamacare and won’t change the facts.

I listened to constituents and experts, studied reports and financial data, participated in discussions, and prayed. My best sources of information were my constituents who work in our hospitals. These are Pro-Life people who make healthcare their ministry, deliver babies, save the injured and the ill, and comfort those at life’s end. I trust them. I talked to administrators, accountants, board members, doctors, nurses, and employees of Baptist, (Little Rock and NLR,) St. Vincent’s (Little Rock and Sherwood), Children’s Hospital, and Conway Regional. For example:

St. Vincent’s had bad debts of $147.6 million in the last three years and provided $51.7 million in charity care last year.

Baptist Health will lose $8 million in Medicare this year and $138 million under Obamacare in the next ten years. Last year, Baptist had $142 million in uncompensated care.

Conway expects a $2 to $4 million loss for 2012.

Adding people to Medicaid is money down a hole. Doctors won’t take it and hospitals lose money. Buying health insurance with our own federal money, we can get people out of Medicaid and cut bureaucracy. People can go to doctors instead of expensive and humiliating emergency rooms. Hospitals can get paid. Health insurance does not cover the needs of the disabled and nursing home elderly, so they will stay in Medicaid.

Acts 1339, 1439, and 1497-1500 establish our state health policies. There is a three year pilot program with a sunset clause. The federal government pays 100 percent of the costs and the Legislature retains oversight. If it does not work, if the feds renege, if we can’t get waivers that make it work, then the program ends.

Ignoring the problems Obamacare has created will not make it or the problems go away. I voted for what I believe to be right. I will be honored to sit with any of my constituents over a cup of coffee and answer any questions.

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