Iowa-Hospital-AssocA spokesperson for the Iowa Hospital Association (IHA) says new data shows the expansion of the state’s Medicaid program is benefiting both hospitals and patients in the state. Scott McIntyre says an IHA study compares numbers between January and June of this year and to the same six month period a year ago.

“In 2013, we saw about 8,000 patients who were uninsured and in 2014, during the same time period, it was only about 4,000 patients,” McIntyre says. The IHA supported the expansion of the state’s Medicaid program, using federal money provided by the Affordable Care Act.

Many states with Republican governors rejected such efforts, but Iowa Governor Terry Branstad agreed to an alternative proposal dubbed the Iowa Health and Wellness Plan.  Federal officials granted a waiver for Iowa’s Medicaid expansion plan, which provided more than 100,000 low income Iowans with health care coverage.

McIntyre says the result is Iowa hospitals’ charity care costs fell 18.5 percent, or $32.5 million, in the first six months of this year. “Whenever we see an increase in people being covered, it’s not a surprise to see a decrease in the need for charity care. That helps hospitals be a little more prepared, flexible, and viable in terms of their finances,” McIntyre said.

The decrease in charity care costs benefits all Iowans, according to McIntyre. “Health care isn’t free and when people who aren’t insured come to the hospital and they can’t cover the cost of their care, part of that expense is passed along to people who are insured,” McIntyre said. “So, every time we insure someone that helps everybody…that improves the situation for the entire state.”

The analysis, based on data collected from 101 Iowa hospitals, also found overall inpatient admissions declined 4.4 percent over the first six months of this year compared with the same period in 2013.

McIntyre says similar results are being reported in other states.