published Sunday, February 7th, 2010

Shameful cuts to TennCare

The tidal waves of the fiscal tsunami generated by the recession that closed the last Bush era of fiscal disaster (discussed in the editorial above) continue unabated. Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen's latest proposals to deal with Tennessee's imploding budget partly through more Medicaid program cuts serve as a ready example of the public health-care consequences.

With the state still challenged by falling tax revenue and unmanageable Medicaid costs, Gov. Bredesen proposed further cuts of $200 million last week to the state Medicaid/TennCare program, in addition to the $170 million he cut last year. Because state Medicaid funding draws down far larger federal matching funds for Medicaid -- generally on a 2-to-1, federal-to-state ratio -- the governor's new cut would produced an estimated $526 million loss to the state's already strapped hospitals, the president of the Tennessee Hospital Association said last Wednesday.

"We're looking at an Armageddon," said THA president Craig Becker.

That isn't hyperbole. Worse, those cuts would fall most heavily on the state's big safety-net hospitals that provide care for the largest numbers of Medicaid patients. These hospitals especially need full state funding to qualify for Medicaid's full federal share, plus the critical "disproportionate share" funding for safety-net hospitals.

Memphis' Regional Medical Center, widely known as The Med, is already on its fiscal knees. It's under continuing pressure to generate enough operating cash to meet daily payroll, purchasing and equipment needs.

Erlanger Hospital, the Chattanooga area's mainstay public hospital, balances its public-private patient loads and manages its cash flow far more evenly than the Med. But like large public hospitals in other cities with unique Level I trauma care and a significant indigent burden, Erlanger would still be staggered by the governor's proposed cuts.

Other health-care providers, from physicians to labs to imaging centers, also would come under additional financial pressure if the state cuts Medicaid funding. Such cuts could prompt providers to drop out of the program. That would further jeopardize care for the state's 1.2 million TennCare enrollees -- a number which accounts for more than a sixth of Tennessee's total population.

Mr. Bredesen's Medicaid cuts should not stand. But the Legislature, controlled by Republicans who had rather impose harsh emotional and physical costs on citizens than raise taxes modestly, is almost certain to go along. More people will suffer deeply, and needlessly, for these misguided policies.

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carlB said...

Opinion of CTFP Sunday, Feb. 7, 2010 Shameful cuts to TennCare

Reply: The saying of "you cannot get blood out of a turnip" in my opinion is true. Or the one "Money does not grown on trees." As we know,not only most of Cities, Counties and the States are in trouble by spending more money than they are taking in. This also goes for the Federal Government also. Well the entire Nation is in a deep recession and the causes and the effects of the recession are still not fully realized yet, but what is being done to correct the conditions which caused the recession and what is being done to get us out of this recession?

Over a period of many years, our elected leaders have not always made the right decisions in what is the best for our Nation and the people. And certainly there has been the lack of anticipation and imagination in making many of their decisions, otherwise we would not have so many incomplete, unfinished crisis issues being handed off from one administration to another administration. This "passing on" condition is bad enough but when the party that lost and passed these crisis issues onto this administration are trying to divide the people and destroy this administration's credibility with misinformation and untruths, just so they can get back in control. If the Voters are convinced into voting out the Democrats, so be it, but if the voters are under the illusion these crisis issues will be corrected withr another political party in control, then they will be mistaken. There are not any "quick fixes" for any of our crisis issues, and we haven't seen the worst of the effects yet, and don't realize how many years we will be "saddled" with these crises, in my opinion.

With the loss of our citizen workers, wages being depressed, cost of living increasing, increase of unemployed, and with an increase in proverty rates within the Nation, cuts will have to be made in States if they mush have a balanced budget. What is going to happen to the people on the bottom of the "chain" when the wages of our Governments' workers are too high? Will there be cuts in salaries from the top down? You might say, what salaries relative to the number of people who have lost their jobs?

February 8, 2010 at 12:43 p.m.
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