They attribute this in part to enrollment rates. The state has enrolled more than 36,000 people in the program so far, about half of the 70,000 expansion was estimated to cover, as of Friday, according to data from the
But hospitals also say expanded coverage is just part of the solution -- and though a bill that will increase MaineCare reimbursement rates for rural hospitals, physicians and health clinics goes into effect next week, it could be some time before rural hospitals see relief.
"With improved payments and the impact of increased coverage, we anticipate we'll see a greater impact in 2020 than 2019," said
Medicaid expansion has been heralded as a way to aid rural hospitals, which tend to struggle because of many factors, including catering to older, sicker and lower-income populations less likely to have private health insurance or be able to pay their bills, declining inpatient care volumes and cuts to Medicaid reimbursement rates.
Expansion was supposed to take effect in
Three rural hospitals in
The remainder still face challenges, according to the
"Our experience is that fewer people are working through the charity care process and more are just not paying the patient responsibility portion of their bill -- whether it be deductible or no insurance," she said.
The hospital had
"We're cautiously optimistic," she said.
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