OLYMPIA, Wash., April 4, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Washington State's hospitals are strongly opposed to the House budget and its attack on hospitals and the health of our residents. The House budget makes deep cuts to payment rates and services that will directly impact safety net hospitals and vital services provided to Medicaid enrollees.
The House budget violates all the agreements made last year on the Hospital Safety Net Assessment, and changes the assessment from a fee to a tax on hospitals and their patients. The result is a $250 million cut to hospital Medicaid rates. These cuts mean hospitals will be paid significantly less than the cost of caring for Medicaid patients. Hospitals are being penalized for bringing this idea forward rather than suing the state and creating even more pressure on the state budget.
The House budget also cuts $75 million in payments for emergency room visits. While we agree with the idea of trying to reduce unnecessary use of the emergency room, many of the conditions on the state's list of "non-emergency" visits are life-threatening emergencies for infants and young children. These include hernia, diabetic coma, convulsions from high fever, major difficulty breathing, and severe hemorrhage in infants. Not taking one's child for treatment for these conditions would result in a report to Child Protective Services. It is the state's responsibility to create a system of primary care that ensures people get the care they need in their communities; until that is done, cutting hospital payments for emergency room care is simply a mandated increase in hospital charity care.
Ultimately, the burden of these cuts will fall on poor children, seniors, people with disabilities, and low-income workers. The costs will also fall on middle-class workers who have private pay insurance as hospitals are forced to shift the cost of state underpayments to them. The House leadership clearly hopes non-profits and community based organizations, including hospitals, will be able to pick up the pieces. Hospitals are not able to absorb the impact of these cuts. If enacted, they will be felt for years to come and will create enormous instability in our state's health care system.
SOURCE Washington State Hospital Association