Wednesday, February 6, 2013

GOP says Medicaid treats taxpayers like 'bystanders'

Area doctors say 'Something has to give' in Medicaid expansion

Waco – An ear, nose and throat specialist, he stood before the McLennan Commissioners Court and told them a sad story about a young man who “smashed his face” in a wreck.

Taxpayers are treated like bystanders in the health care debate,
says County Republican Chairman Ralph Patterson 
Though he wouldn't have made a dime, he stood ready to perform reconstructive surgery, he recalls.

But it wasn't to be because, though the patient is employed, he's uninsured, and he didn't have the money to pay for the office visit and to pay the basic treatment fee to the hospital. The consequences are stark. The patient will face severe issues in the future that concern his breathing, vision and nervous system.

A lack of insurance coverage will diminish the quality of his life - to a huge degree.

Dr. Bradford Holland, former chairman of the McLennan County Medical Society and current chair of the outfit's legislative effort, made it brief and to the point.

The numbers don't lie. In the year 2000, 70 percent of doctors in Texas accepted Medicaid payments; by mid-decade, only 47 percent would play ball with the federal government. As of today, 30 percent will perform their professional duties in exchange for Medicaid payment.

“Something's got to give,” he said. As of today, anesthesiologists, surgeons, radiologists – all the specialists – are performing their services for free.

The current legislative session is in a quandary as to how Texas will respond to federal demands to expand its Medicaid system. Governor Rick Perry is saying no – no way. His party, the GOP, is following suit, and it's the majority in both houses.

The current standard is that a family of three can earn up to $57,000, or three times the poverty level, and still take advantage of a system everyone agrees is beyond broken.

“It's a mess,” said McLennan County Republican Chairman Ralph Patterson in remarks following Dr. Holland's.

As the deadline of January 1, 2014 comes barreling down the pike like a blue norther, advocates are clamoring for the state to opt for picking up an additional $100 billion over the next decade, a measure that would help an estimated one million uninsured Texans get health insurance.

In San Antonio, George Hernandez, Jr., points out that it's not necessarily the only course of action. As CEO of the University Health System, he says with approval of the feds and the Texas Legislature, a county can always set up its own situation in the Medicaid department.

It's a tricky situation because conservatives are saying not so fast.

To exacerbate a complicated crisis, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that a state can always refuse to take part without being penalized.

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff declared to newsmen that his county could save $53 million a year if half of the 55,000 people on county-paid health care were placed on the new system of an expanded Medicaid program.

The complications don't end there, said the GOP Chairman, Mr. Patterson.

The Legislature underfunded Medicaid by $4.5 billion in the previous session, which consumes 20 percent of the state's budget. If Medicaid is expanded to fit the requirements of the Obamacare system, it would consume 33 percent.

In meetings he's attended, said Mr. Patterson, “...the taxpayers are treated as bystanders.” He is amazed at the enthusiasm he sees among those who will benefit from increased payments of Medicaid funds.

Dr. Holland's three alternatives are not much more palatable to conservative ears.

They are:
  1. Expand the role of Medicaid and participate in Obamacare
  2. Create a public hospital district with taxing powers
  3. Send patients to Scott & White in Temple

No comments:

Post a Comment