Saturday, May 21, 2011

Texas Legislature to Live within its Meanness

The Texas Legislature agreed upon a $80.6 billion two year budget, a decrease of $15 billion from the amount spent in the last budget cycle. NECN reported:

Hospitals will see their reimbursement rates for Medicaid patients cut 8 percent, early childhood intervention will lose $40 million and the Federal Women's Health Program will be eliminated.

Lawmakers have also slashed programs to make sure the state is prepared for natural disaster or epidemics and funding for HIV and sexually transmitted disease prevention, while abstinence education remains fully funded. Chronic disease prevention has been cut more than 50 percent and family planning funding may be cut 80 percent, according the budget board documents.

To pay for the programs that are left, the Legislature has made it a priority to capture the maximum number of federal dollars while spending as few state dollars as possible.
The Texas legislature loves federal money.  They've lived off supplemental federal Medicaid funding under Obama's Stimulus Bill.  Texas Governor Rick Perry did not say "No to Washington," taking the raised federal percent, 78% for two years.  It's gone, thus Texas will only get 60% in federal Medicaid funding.

Gov. Perry, an expert at accounting gimmicks, will get a bill that puts off the projected Medicaid shortfall to January 2013, when the Legislature reconvenes. The legislature has a hold on any spending bills the first month of the session.  Will Shannon Medical Center survive until February 2013 as an independent safety net hospital?  Even with the ample resources of The Shannon Trust, the hospital could easily be in jeopardy.

The last time our country faced a health care upheaval (over managed care), San Angelo Community Medical Center sold out to Columbia/HCA.  It was spun off to Triad Hospitals, which later was acquired by Community Health Systems.  Does Shannon Medical Center face a similar for-profit future?  Time will tell.

The title of this piece came from a poll on the Texas Legislature's bone crushing cuts.  "Live within its Meanness" came in second.  The winner:  "Medicaid recipients don't vote, not a one."

It seems other state legislators noticed.  (The image above can be seen here)

Update 5-24-11:  The Dallas Morning News used the "mean" theme to describe the budget deal.

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