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Barnesville hospital officials talk about Medicaid expansion debate, effects on patients

In the debate over Medicaid expansion, rural area hospitals in Ohio have the most to lose, including possible cuts to the number of patients they can treat, hospital officials said.

Barnesville Hospital, a nonprofit and independent facility, served 35,000 people this past year, and a good number of those patients treated are uninsured or can’t pay for medical care. Many residents travel from nearby counties, like Noble and Monroe, to Barnesville Hospital because it is the closest medical facility.

“I think where it would potentially make a difference is in the aspect of — people that are uninsured may wait to seek services. And when they wait, typically, they come to a hospital emergency room or to a physician’s office when they’re at their sickest point,” said David Phillips, the chief executive director at Barnesville Hospital.

Phillips said they provided more than $2 million in care to the uninsured in the past year. Democratic lawmakers argue services, like mental health and child abuse care, as well as staffing, would be affected if the expansion isn’t on the budget.

“We can’t say at this point that staffing would go down. What we can say at this point is, it would have a negative impact on the hospital, said Phillips.

Republicans said the costs are too high.

“When you look at what is needed in terms of being able to provide quality health care services, those costs only continue to rise,” said Phillips.

But officials said community hospitals are very important. Workers said the proximity of this facility for residents can be the difference in life-or-death situations, since staff can treat or stabilize patients in Barnesville.

If the expansion is tacked onto the budget, it would give the hospital about 1,000 more people to serve, Phillips said.

Story by Briona Arradondo

Posted: 6:23 p.m. Thursday, April 18, 2013