Health & Science

Hospitals Bracing for Budget Cuts by State

Texas hospitals could be hit hard by state budget cuts. At a press conference in Austin today, the Texas Hospital Association warned legislators that Medicaid reductions will lead to layoffs and cutbacks on medical care. KUHF health science and technology reporter Carrie Feibel has more.

The proposed budget calls for 10 percent cuts in Medicaid reimbursement to doctors and hospitals.

Bill Webster is CEO of a public hospital system in Odessa.

He spoke during the press conference, which was broadcast over the Internet:

“Public hospitals like mine will have to make tough budget decisions: do we raise taxes, do we reduce services and our workforce, or both.”

But that’s not all.

The state could also reduce funding for ambulances, nurses, and other programs.

All the state cutbacks could then trigger cutbacks in federal matching funds. John Guest spoke on behalf of teaching hospitals in Texas:

“Funding for trauma centers, cut. Funding for graduate medical education, this is a program that helps train our badly needed future doctors, cut. Funding for the physician loan repayment program, cut, and again funding for most hospital care, cut.”

So what are the alternatives?

The Hospital Association wants the state to dip deeper into the Rainy Day Fund and fix the business tax so that it brings in more revenue.

Locally, the Harris County Hospital District expects to lose $50 to $80 million in funding.

That’s about 5-8 percent of its total budget.

President and CEO David Lopez says there could be layoffs of administrative workers.

And there’s a new policy: people who aren’t residents of Harris County can be turned back at the ER doors if they don’t have a true emergency.

“So what we’re saying to the members of the community who are not residents of Harris County: ‘If you have an emergency, yes we’ll take care of you, by law we have to do that. However, if it’s not an emergency we’re going to require cash up front or we will provide you a listing of providers in your community that you can go see.’ But our first priority and our only priority is to take care of residents of Harris County.”

The district runs three hospitals, 23 clinics, and a dialysis center.

As a last resort, the Commissioners Court could raise the portion of the county tax rate that funds the hospital district.
But as Lopez says –

“We’re not even considering that at this point.”

The hospital district gets 19 cents of county tax revenue per $100 in assessed value.

Lopez says there hasn’t been a significant increase in the rate since 1999.