Several medical assistance programs face termination in the midst of budget cuts.
While health and human services are not fearing as dramatic of cuts as education in Gov. Tom Corbett’s proposed budget for 2011-12, Quinton Johnson, a resident of North Philadelphia, said he is still worried the proposed cuts to medical assistance programs will affect his family, including his 3-year-old son, Gabriel Johnson.
“[Temple University Hospital] really is going to have to step up with this,” Johnson said. “If [the budget passes], they’ll have to make it work and keep servicing the community. They’re going to have to step up to the plate. I wouldn’t want any of this to affect [my son] in the future if he had to go to the hospital or something.”
Sandy Gomberg, the interim CEO of TUH, said the hospital cares for the highest volume of medical assistance recipients of any hospital in Pennsylvania.
Gomberg emphasized that while the proposed budget would slash Medicare and Medicaid funding, the budget is changing on a day-to-day basis as they negotiate with legislatures.
“What we know today is very different from what we may know tomorrow,” Gomberg said.
The proposed budget would affect hospitals like TUH that serve large numbers of poor and uninsured patients by removing several categories of medical assistance. Among the medical assistance programs whose funding may be on the chopping block are obstetrics and neonatal services, hospital-based burn centers, critical access hospitals, trauma centers and academic medical centers.
TUH receives more funding for more of the services being terminated than any other hospital in the state.
Gomberg also said TUH prepared for the possibility of losing that funding, which is almost always at risk, by already eliminatomg unnecessary expenses, focusing on quality care and consolidation and eliminating redundancies.
“There are a lot of indigent people in the community who have Medicare and Medicaid,” Johnson said. “If the government cuts the money they’re giving to the hospital, then what will they do?”
“They’re taking that service away from the people. People already can barely afford hospital bills,” Johnson added. “You have to pay thousands of dollars for an appointment and then you have to pay tons of money for the medication.”
Johnson is not alone in his concern over the proposed cuts.
“I recently had a stroke, and I’m reliant on the government’s money to pay for my hospital and medical care,” said Julius Tyson of New Jersey, who seeks treatment at TUH.
“I really hope this budget doesn’t pass. The surrounding community probably all goes to the Temple hospital,” Tyson said. “It would really be a disservice if they had to start going somewhere else if Temple couldn’t accept them due to a lack of funding. It’s something that will really hurt the community. I think it would be a tragedy for some people if it passes.”
Gomberg added the important point is to underscore how volatile the situation is between the budget hearings and the general state of health care reform.
“Our commitment is to provide the highest quality of care to our patients because that is both the right thing to do and the most cost-effective,” Gomberg said.
Valerie Rubinsky and Alyssa Saylor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.