HUBBARD COUNTY DFL: Rural health care facing economic challenges

The monthly “Let’s Talk” hour of the September meeting featured Ben Kopplelman, CEO of CHI St. Joseph’s Health, who spoke on various issues confronting health care in rural areas like our lake country.

Rural health care facilities face rising economic challenges due primarily to lower patient volumes, ever-changing pricing for patient services such as prescription drugs and specialty services, in addition to rising health insurance rates.

Rural health is largely paid for through government programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid, at the federal level augmented by a multitude of state- and county-sponsored programs covering people in unfortunate economic circumstances.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA, Obamacare) has been weakened in the last couple years and there are no plausible remedies being advanced through Congress. Most notable losses, if the ACA were repealed, would be coverage for more uninsured (22 million), plus those already uninsured (28 million); those with pre-existing conditions (52 million); youth coverage under parental plans until age 26; re-opening the drug “doughnut hole” impacting seniors; reinstating limits insurance companies would be liable for; eliminating 10 essential benefits leading to weakened coverage, along with more profits for insurance providers, constant activities insurance companies engage in to increase their profits and returns to investors.

Democrat candidates for president have offered several plans to expand health care coverage and reducing costs, but only one, Expanded Medicare for All, has received much traction. All others leave out significant segments of our population but, as a minimum, if Democrats win in 2020, the ACA will be restored and strengthened to meet its intended purposes.


Other topics of interest at last month’s meeting were the rising ratio of nurse practitioners to physicians – now at a 50/50 ratio. Medicare/Medicaid reimbursements don’t cover all hospital costs. The current administration’s proposed cuts to these programs would result in more hospital/clinic closures (107 since 2010, 10 this year alone) and reduction in critical staffing in rural areas.

The opportunity to listen to and engage with Ben Koppelman was an eye-opener into the complex world of health care management. Everyone would benefit from this firsthand knowledge over political propaganda.

Winning elections are secondary to providing health care for all in need.

The next Hubbard County DFL meeting is scheduled for Monday, Nov. 11 at 6 p.m. in the Park Rapids Library. As usual, all interested are invited to attend regardless of political persuasion.

Editor’s note: Both the Hubbard County DFL and Hubbard County Republicans are invited to write columns for the Enterprise’s Opinion page.

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