The nation’s largest for-profit health-care company is defending the Affordable Care Act because of the law’s substantial benefits to women’s health.
Women who are insured on the federal health exchanges are better able to access needed diagnostic care and treatments than uninsured women, according to a brief submitted by the Hospital Corporation of America (HCA) to the Supreme Court.
The brief defends the Obama administration in King v. Burwell, a case that threatens to devastate health-care reform and throw the insurance market into chaos by invalidating the federal exchange subsidies that keep health insurance affordable for millions of people living in states that haven’t set up exchanges.
HCA was once headed by Florida Gov. Rick Scott, no friend of Obamacare, and donates more to Republican candidates and PACs than Democratic ones. But like many other corporations, HCA doesn’t want to see the Supreme Court rule against the Obama administration because it finds that the law works as intended and benefits its bottom line.
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HCA’s brief, drawing on data from patients at its facilities in 15 states that participate in the federally facilitated exchanges, finds that uninsured patients use expensive emergency room care more than three times as much as patients who are insured through the federal exchanges. That’s because uninsured patients avoid preventive care that they can’t afford until the problem becomes too severe to ignore. Then they go to emergency rooms, where they can’t be turned away for lack of insurance, but where they only receive limited services and cost the system more as a whole.
Breast ultrasounds are one service patients can’t usually access in emergency rooms. HCA finds that women insured through the federal exchanges are able to access ultrasound care to examine a breast lump or abnormal mammogram three times more frequently than uninsured women.
A staggering 77 percent of HCA’s federal exchange-insured oncology patients were women. Women are at higher risk for cancer before the age of 65—also the age at which they would qualify for Medicare and no longer need coverage through the Affordable Care Act.
High numbers of women accessing cancer treatment is one reason women outnumber men two-to-one among HCA’s patients who are insured through the federal exchanges.
Sixty-five percent of HCA’s federal exchange patients are women, whereas just 53 percent of HCA’s uninsured patients are women. This suggests that many more women forgo necessary care when they are uninsured, and take advantage of insurance in much larger numbers when they can finally access it.
The brief draws special attention to the health benefits for women insured through the exchanges because Congress also paid special attention to women’s health issues in the Affordable Care Act—like covering women’s health services as “essential benefits,” or banning the practice of charging women more for health insurance. The Supreme Court case determining the fate of Obamacare hinges on what Congress intended when it wrote the law. If Congress intended to benefit women’s health, HCA argues, it can’t possibly have wanted millions of women to go without the essential care they can only afford thanks to the federal exchange subsidies.
Correction: A version of the article incorrectly noted that HCA operates 15 acute care hospitals around the country; the correct number is 155.
This piece has also been updated to reflect the fact that the data in HCA’s brief comes from its facilities in 15 states, rather than all of its facilities.