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Affordable Care Act repeal bill could hurt hospitals' bottom lines: Cleveland Clinic CEO

  • Hospitals already operate on thin margins, and more uninsured patients could shrink them even more, Cosgrove said.
  • He argues the real problem is the rising cost of health care.

The Senate's Affordable Care Act replacement bill is expected to leave millions more uninsured if passed. That could plunge some hospitals into deep financial trouble, Cleveland Clinic CEO Toby Cosgrove told CNBC.

If enacted, the Senate's Better Care Reconciliation Act could leave 15 million more people uninsured next year and 22 million without health insurance by 2026 relative to the current law, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Hospitals are already running on low margins though most of their patients have health insurance, Cosgrove said, and serving people who are uninsured and may not be able to pay out of pocket would be a "burden."

"If you have more patients coming in that are not paid, you're going to have hospitals that are in very deep financial trouble," Cosgrove said Wednesday on CNBC's "Squawk Box." "And this is particularly true of rural hospitals and safety net hospitals, which are very dependent on Medicare and Medicaid for their returns."

Congress is headed in the wrong direction, Cosgrove said, focusing on payment reform when they should be focusing on than health-care reform. The "root cause" is the rising cost of health care.

Two price drivers Cosgrove mentioned are health epidemics, such as obesity, opioid abuse and smoking, and the rising cost of drugs. Last year, Cleveland Clinics' pharmacy costs increased 19 percent, Cosgrove said.

"I think if we came together and deal with the root cause there'd be plenty of money to go around to look after people," Cosgrove said. "But if we don't deal with it now, we're going to have the same problem going 10 years from now."

Cosgrove said he has not shared his concerns with President Donald Trump, but he said he has shared them with people in the White House.