All health care systems are certainly keeping an eye on Washington, D.C., these days. At St. Elizabeth Healthcare, we are not alone in feeling like uncertainty is the only constant in health care today.

As you know, President Trump and our Congress have taken aim at the Affordable Care Act enacted several years ago as a response to much-needed change. Whether the mandates of the Affordable Care Act under President Obama were the right or wrong response will be debated for decades. Under President Trump’s administration, a new approach was being considered, and many perspectives and opinions were “enthusiastically” debated. On March 24, however, the proposed bill was put on hold, so the debate, the uncertainty and the contention all continue.

Today, for those of us on the frontlines of health care delivery, what matters most is not whether the Affordable Care Act is reformed, replaced or repaired. What matters most to us, whatever changes lie ahead, is that we continue to fulfill our mission to provide comprehensive and compassionate care that improves the health of the people we serve.

As much as we would all like more certainty in our lives, we must continue to wait and see what happens in Washington. For those considered “safety-net” hospitals, these are especially anxious times. St. Elizabeth Healthcare is such a hospital, and we’re also often referred to as an “essential” hospital. We care for everyone in the same way regardless of their ability to pay. The percentage of our patients with Medicaid (about 21 percent) reflects the percentage of our population covered by Medicaid. We do this with no public support.

Institutions like ours could be facing increased financial pressures precisely because we provide an exceptional amount of care for those less fortunate. Such patients receive the same high quality care as every other patient.

Health care is among the most heavily regulated industries in America today. Indeed, most prices for services we provide are fixed by Medicare and Medicaid (about 70 percent) or managed care/insurance companies (about 30 percent). Health care is not really a “free market,” as that term is used to refer to the sale of goods and other services. Simply adjusting “price” to make up for the potential losses referenced above is not an option.

We will continue to pay close attention to what happens in Washington. No matter what the future holds, our mission at St. Elizabeth Healthcare is, and has always been, to provide access to care for all and to stay engaged as a leader in the community we serve every day. That mission is rooted in all of us—it is in our DNA. Rest assured that, regardless of the challenges ahead, St. Elizabeth Healthcare will always place our patients and their families first as we face these uncertain times.

Garren Colvin has been president & CEO of St. Elizabeth Healthcare since June 2015. He has been with St. Elizabeth Healthcare for almost 34 years in a variety of positions including chief operating officer and senior vice president. Colvin is a Northern Kentucky native and Villa Hills resident who attended Ludlow High School, Thomas More College and Northern Kentucky University.

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