Hospitals face big cuts after governor kills $381 million medical program for low-income adults

The big hospitals that care for the poorest Minnesotans say they have to start planning now to deal with Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s elimination of the General Assistance Medical Care program, starting next year.

The program covers childless adults who earn less than $8,000 a year. Although the governor said lawmakers have another year to find ways to change the program, the hospitals can’t wait that long to make budget decisions, says MPR news.

Dr. Michael Belzer, medical director at Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC) in Minneapolis, said hospitals will set their budgets for next year long before lawmakers reconvene next session. So they have to make budget decisions with the assumption that the money won’t be restored.

HCMC is the state’s largest safety-net hospital. It receives approximately $40 million each year in income from treating GAMC patients, but the actual cost of the program cuts could be substantially higher.

Regions Hospital in St. Paul, the other major safety net hospital in the Twin Cities, also faces some tough choices due to the GAMC cut.

President and CEO Brock Nelson said Region’s will lose $35 million next year and likely millions more from unpaid medical bills. Nelson said the financial impact is devastating.

“The burden for the state’s budget problem is being placed on the backs of a few hospitals that serve the safety net patients,” Nelson said. “And we have to bear the burden for the entire, a substantial part of this deficit. And that’s what hurts because it’s inequitable.”

Advocates for health care workers said the budget consequences are so acute that even Minnesotans with health coverage will feel the effects.

“If you’re planning on going to the emergency room you better bring a good book because there’s going to be a long line,” said Rick Varco, political director for SEIU Healthcare Minnesota, a division of the Service Employees International Union

Varco said, while the emergency rooms might be busier as a result of state cuts, he thinks hospitals overall could be much quieter.

“If parts of hospitals shut down or programs shut down or any sort of cut backs that the hospitals make to meet these cuts are going to affect not just our members and not just people on GAMC, but everybody who relies on the health care system,” Varco said.

And with the governor now empowered to make much deeper cuts through unallotment, other health care services are worried, too.

“There’s serious, serious fear among the health care organizations that serve low-income, vulnerable, disadvantaged populations because, given the governor’s track record on these programs, we would expect that he would target these programs for cuts,” said Michael Scandrett, a lobbyist with the Minnesota Safety Net Coalition “There would be a lot of clinics that I don’t know how they would stay in business.”

The governor hasn’t said what programs are on the chopping block, but said the growth in health and human services spending is unsustainable.

Comments (3)

  1. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 05/19/2009 - 01:13 pm.

    In other words, all the baby boomers who are aging and will soon be in need of increasingly expensive medical care, and those already in nursing homes or receiving home health care assistance better get ready to just die for lack of such care, because meeting their inevitably increasing needs is “unsustainable.” That’s what Gov. Pawlenty really means.

  2. Submitted by Glenn Mesaros on 05/19/2009 - 02:18 pm.

    Led by Budget Director Peter Orszag and chief economic advisor Lawrence Summers, the Obama Administration is demanding trillions of dollars be cut from health care for the elderly, the poor, and the sick, as lives not worth preserving.

    Billionaire George Soros, infamous as head of the global narcotics lobby, was a main sponsor and shaper of the recent years’ campaign to gain acceptance for the euthanasia agenda now thrust forward by the Administration.

    Soros spelled out his genocide campaign in a speech at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, on Nov. 30, 1994. He described the “Project on Death in America” which he was about to launch, and which would be based at that hospital/medical school.

    In this speech, Soros stated his companion goals of legalizing narcotics, and ending life-saving medical care for the elderly and other useless eaters. He made clear the moral premise of his euthanasia policy, by explaining how he killed his mother. And he stated exactly how he intended to subvert and overthrow the American commitment to saving human lives, by inflitrating his own paid and trained agents throughout the nation’s medical education centers.

    Terminating Mom

    In his 1994 New York speech, Soros said that he offered to help his mother kill herself, but she refused, and when she was unconscious, he withdrew food from her, and she died about a week later.

    Terminating Medicine

    Soros attacked the concept of treating disease and saving lives. If patients die sooner, it will save resources. Families should be able to kill patients, he stressed, even without the patients’ consent:

    “This emphasis on treating disease, instead of providing care, has altered the practice of medicine. People live longer, surviving four or five illnesses before dying. But the health care bill grows with every illness. Our success has also brought other unintended consequences. We have created a medical culture that is so intent on curing disease and prolonging life that it fails to provide support in that inevitable phase of life — death. Advances in high technology interventions have contributed to this weakness in our medical system, deluding doctors and patients alike into believing that the inevitable can be delayed almost indefinitely…. We should consider laws that permit next of kin to decide to forgo life sustaining medical interventions even when a patient’s wishes are not known. The government may have to help family members financially so that they can take care of dying persons at home by the least expensive means. Aggressive, life-prolonging interventions, which may at times go against the patient’s wishes, are much more expensive than proper care for the dying…. [With] physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia … I cannot but approve. But I must emphasize that I am speaking in my personal capacity and not on behalf of the Board of the Project on Death in America.”

    How would the Project rapidly spread a culture of death?

    Soros laid it out: “The first major program is to establish a number of faculty scholarships. We hope to identify outstanding faculty and clinicians who are committed to the Project’s goals and to support them in their work of developing new models for the care of the dying and new approaches to the education of health professionals about the care of dying patients and their families. The scholars … will become the academic leaders on this issue, the role models, and mentors to future generations of health professionals…. In three years we will have a leader and role model in place in one-fourth of the country’s medical schools.”

  3. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 05/20/2009 - 03:12 pm.

    I believe you are severely misinterpreting Mr. Soros. What he is talking about is getting rid of the common practice of extending a terminally ill person’s life by a few painful and terrifically expensive months by means of aggressive medical care — surgeries, chemotherapy, multiple drugs. Sometimes these measures are carried out against the dying person’s own wishes.

    He is advocating the use of hospice care, effective pain control, kindness and caring and support through the entire process. As do the Catholic Church and many other religious bodies.

    This is NOT euthanasia.

    Please do not malign him.

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