Some Cuts Don't Heal

March 31, 2011

Hospitals community leaders ask San Antonians to protect healthcare funding

CONTACTS: Patti Tanner, Baptist Health System, 210-884-8066
Melissa Krause, CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Health System, 210-831-9135
Palmira Arellano, Methodist Healthcare, 210-325-2295
Leni Kirkman, University Health System, 210-358-2335

Leaders from San Antonio’s major health systems came together with Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff and Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce President Richard Perez, the day before the state budget goes to lawmakers, to put into context what a $200 million loss in healthcare funding could mean to every person in the community. More than 100 doctors, nurses and other health professionals gathered at the downtown chamber office to lay out how proposed cuts in Medicaid funding would impact the local economy, taxes and the availability of health services.

Understanding the state is facing a $23 billion shortfall, the chief executive officers for Baptist Health System, CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Health System, Methodist Health System and University Health System emphasized the need for a balanced approach. Their message: Cuts alone cannot solve this budget crisis.

The healthcare/bioscience industry is San Antonio’s largest, contributing $25 billion to the local economy. “One out of every six people in our community works in healthcare and these are high-paying jobs,” said Perez, pointing out that the San Antonio population grew 16 percent from 2000 – 2010. “At a time when we should be adding jobs and services, our hospitals may be forced to cut.”

“We are facing a critical juncture in health care, and this is the time we must stand and make our voices heard,” emphasized Pat Carrier, President/CEO of CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Health System, who pointed out that $200 million in cuts will affect every business and individual, as there would be no way for local hospitals to absorb that kind of devastating loss without reducing jobs and services.

In addition to the economic hit, Bexar Count¬¬¬y Judge Nelson Wolff said overcrowding in San Antonio’s already busy emergency rooms would follow, as those without health coverage have few other choices for care. Overcrowding means longer wait times for everyone, even those with good health coverage. “We all know emergency room care is not free,” he added. “If the Medicaid program is cut, someone else will have to pay. I’m here today to say ‘that someone’ should not be the people of Bexar County, who are already contributing their fair share.” He said the proposed cuts in Medicaid funding would not really save money, but just shift the responsibility from the state down to local taxpayers.

Currently, for every dollar spent on Medicaid in Texas, 13 cents comes from local taxpayers, 19 cents from the State of Texas and 68 cents is sent back to Texas from the federal government. If the state reduces its share, the federal match will reduce as well, leaving local taxpayers carrying a much larger burden. “When Texas leaves federal matching health care dollars on the table, income taxes paid by Texans are used to support health care in other states, like New York, Massachusetts and California,” said Methodist Health System CEO Jaime Wesolowski.

The cuts could also seriously worsen hospitals’ ability to respond in emergency and disaster situations. “This is an expensive system of care that is at risk,” said George B. Hernandez, Jr., president/CEO of University Health System. “If hospitals see their reimbursements significantly cut, many might find it impossible to continue to provide lifesaving services like trauma and burn care.

“Clearly our state faces a huge budget problem, and we must all be part of the solution,” concluded Graham Reeve, President and CEO of Baptist Health System. “Hospitals, doctors and other health providers are working in many ways to lower the cost of health care. At the same time, our legislators must now step up to maintain adequate state funding for programs that keep our most vulnerable residents healthy, and that keep our state attractive to businesses that strengthen our economy.”

Hospital officials are encouraging all San Antonians to log on to www.SomeCutsDontHeal.org to learn more and voice their opinion to prevent our tax dollars from going to other states, preserve good paying jobs in our community and assure that lifesaving services remain immediately available for our families.