While the standoff over whether to fund the Affordable Care Act continues to shut down parts of the federal government, hospitals are busy preparing for changes to the health care system.
Two Coachella Valley hospitals are actively working to help people get coverage - in large part because it will help their bottom line.
Richard Ramhoff, a spokesman for Desert Regional and JFK Hospitals, says hospitals nationwide have dealt with 320 billion dollars in funding cuts from Medicare since the Affordable Care Act was signed into law in 2010.
"There have already been significant cuts to reimbursements through hospitals," Ramhoff said. "That was a structural change to pay for health care reform with the promise that there would be a broader coverage and we would have fewer folks coming into our hospitals without the ability to pay, or without coverage. Which is clearly a significant issue for the health care industry."
That promise of more people coming to the hospital with insurance means more money for the hospitals to offset the lower reimbursements from Medicare. Desert Regional and JFK are working with community agencies to spread the word on the Affordable Care Act and how people can get coverage. They also have their own toll free number, (866) 893-8446.
"What we're trying to do is get out the word to make sure that people who can qualify for this coverage get the coverage that they qualify for," Ramhoff said. "That should stabilize the system so that when people have a need, they come in and they have some coverage. They have peace of mind. It stabilizes the system of payments in a more rational way."
Those payments will come from companies like Blue Cross and Blue Shield who are in the government insurance exchange.
"Our team for both hospitals has been making it a priority to ensure that we have contracts for the majority of insurance plans that are in the health care exchange in California," Ramhoff said. "We currently have contracts with major players that are already in those exchanges."
If the system works as it is designed and more people have insurance, that would mean less of a burden on emergency rooms which are crowded with uninsured people seeking non-emergency care.
"That's truly the promise of health care reform is that if folks have that coverage, they'll be able to seek care in the appropriate way," Ramhoff said. "And that will leave our very sophisticated trauma center available for folks that need it the most."
Eisenhower Hospital in Rancho Mirage did not return phone calls seeking comment on how they are preparing for the Affordable Care Act.