Senate Bill Threatens To Cut Funding to State Health Care Safety Net

By: Alexandra Hill Email
By: Alexandra Hill Email

Panama City - "Don't do it! It's absolutely necessary,” says Pamela Cool fighting back tears.

Cool is angry with state legislators.

In an effort to close a $3.6 billion deficit, the Senate budget proposal will cut the Medically Needy program and totally eliminate the Medicaid for the Aged and Disabled program.

“I'm very worried about it because without the Medically Needy program there are people out there that can't afford medical care,” said Cool.

Hospitals would have a hard time continuing to care for those patients, especially the 15 safety net hospitals which absorb more than half of all the state's charity and Medicaid patients.

Bay Medical is a safety net hospital.

"For us to shoulder that burden, I won't say entirely, but disproportionately in this community, is a huge task to ask of Bay Medical Center," said Bay Medical CEO Steve Johnson.

The Senate bill would cut $720 million to these safety nets, more than $9.4 million to Bay Medical.

"I just can't sit here and tell you that oh we'll just keep continuing to absorb the cuts because quite frankly that will be unattainable. We couldn't do that. We'd have to figure out how we're going to address that,” said Johnson.

Johnson said it's too early to speculate what services would suffer, but did point out the hospital's annual payroll is almost $80 million a year.

"It starts at paying debt service, to salaries, to supplies, drugs, soap, it affects everything,” Johnson.

Cool fears if this bill passes, she'll no longer be able to afford the care she needs.

"It's just ridiculous that it's so expensive. It's absolutely ridiculous,” said Cool.

The House budget proposal treats safety net hospitals a bit kinder. The House proposes to cut hospital Medicaid reimbursements by 7 percent instead of 10 percent. The bill also maintains hospital coverage in the Medically Needy program and the Medicaid for the Aged and Disabled program. This is a $580 million difference statewide. To Bay Medical it’s a $7 million difference, with the House bill cutting just around $2 million.

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  • by Angry Location: Panama City on Apr 9, 2011 at 04:03 PM
    I guess Bay Medical and other hospitals will have to start turning people away at the emergency room. You can only stretch a buck so far and if you can't pay for your medical care, you can hit the road.
  • by Anonymous Location: Bay County on Apr 8, 2011 at 09:23 AM
    The statement by Mike is sad but true. Everyone is so busy worried about what Obama is and isn't doing while the people closest to home are doing are whatever they want. How does that song say it "sweep around your own front door..."? We have to stand up now, today and get this fixed. It may not affect you today, but you never where you will be tomorrow. Every poor wasn't always poor. We have to come together not only in agreement through prayer, but in action and let the people (that the majority of us elected) know that we will not tolerate it and this is not what we elected you to do!
  • by Brian Location: Panama City on Apr 7, 2011 at 08:31 PM
    I guess the Board of Trustees and Administration at Bay Medical Center won't be taking as many working vacations and special fact-finding trips (while being wined and dined). Hey, maybe if they cut back all employees to 32 hours instead of 36 they could keep their road trips and catered luncheons while the hospital absorbs even greater losses. And Heaven forbid they stop hiring consultants to come in and teach the leadership how to...well, lead.
  • by jimmy Location: panama city on Apr 7, 2011 at 07:25 PM
    I bet that this bill will not affect the senate health care.I think we the people best speak and act out if need be. If need be see to it that the rich can't keep their lifestyle while the poor suffer. It is always pick on the poor and downtrodden. We have some real losers in our state government.
  • by Mike Location: panama city on Apr 7, 2011 at 05:26 PM
    Please don't elimate this please. I'm 100% disable if this is done away with i will lose everything. Medicare pays 80% medicade pay 20%. Its too hard to get Dr to see me know if i lose that i lose all of them. I worked 35 yrs paid my taxes and never asked for help before. Seniors will go with med's and Dr's and they will die at the hands of the state please rally and tell your Rep's to repeal this bill please.
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