Proposed cutbacks in Minnesota’s publicly funded health care programs have providers deeply worried about the potential fallout – to patients as well as to the health care infrastructure in Minnesota.
Lawrence Massa, president of the Minnesota Hospital Association, said it will undermine the stability of hospitals and unravel the health care safety net for the poor. And the Minnesota Medical Association has criticized the plan for "balancing the budget on the backs of the needy."
The cutbacks, proposed this week by Gov. Tim Pawlenty, go deep: $365 million, including matching federal dollars, could be slashed from hospitals. Some 84,000 people are at risk of being dropped from the rolls of Medical Assistance, General Assistance Medical Care and MinnesotaCare. Reductions also have been proposed in medical education funding.
The eligibility reductions alone for the publicly funded health care programs would result in more than a 20 percent increase in the number of Minnesotans who are uninsured, Massa said in a statement this week.
As more and more Minnesotans become unemployed, the need for these programs is increasing. Without insurance, these people are likely to rely on hospitals’ emergency rooms as their sole source of health care, thereby increasing hospitals’ growing uncompensated care costs and further straining our fragile health care system’s ability to deliver quality, timely care.
Dr. Noel Peterson, president of the Minnesota Medical Association, calls it "short sighted and damaging."
"Ignoring the immediate need for health care won’t save money in the long run," Peterson warned. "The costs of providing care to people without insurance are shifted onto private payers, which means higher premiums, especially for small employers."
Massa said Minnesota’s physician shortage is likely to worsen if medical education funding is cut.
"We’ve already seen caregivers and other staff lose their jobs because of the economic downturn and the state’s previous cuts to hospitals," he said. "The governor’s proposed budget will lead to more layoffs, fewer physicians in our work force and elimination of vital hospital community services."