By Ralph Clark
CEO of Medical Center Barbour
On Sept. 18, the people of Alabama will go to the polls to vote on a constitutional amendment that will have a major impact on every agency of state government.
What you may not realize is that this amendment must pass for our local hospital and all the health care providers in this area to continue to offer the services our community needs.
Basically, the amendment would allow the state to go into its savings account for three years to help fund critical state services and avoid their collapse, giving state leaders time to develop long-term reforms. Lawmakers have already made 10 to 30 percent reductions in state funding this year and predict additional cuts of up to 17 percent if the amendment doesn’t pass.
To understand the potential impact on health care, it is important to know that Medicaid is the largest part of the state’s health care delivery system and supports the infrastructure of hospitals, pediatricians, physicians, nursing homes and pharmacies. More than 900,000 Alabamians rely on Medicaid, which is one of the key agencies affected by the amendment vote.
Of those covered by Medicaid, 42 percent are blind or disabled and nearly 25 percent of them are senior citizens. The rest are children, and a very small percentage (9 percent) are adults.
Any significant changes to the program would not only affect access to services for Medicaid patients, but also for everyone in our community who needs a doctor or visits our hospital regardless of their health care coverage.
In addition, other health care services would suffer, such as dialysis, prescription medications for adults, critical transportation for children, and in-home care, which would all be greatly reduced or eliminated altogether.
Without these basic services, Medicaid recipients would be forced to use hospital emergency rooms as their primary source of health care, which would be expensive, create overcrowding and limit access for most of our citizens. Hospitals like ours may be forced to cut staff and/or services, and others with significantly high volumes of Medicaid patients would be forced to close altogether. So, even those covered by other insurance might find themselves without access to local medical care if the amendment fails.
Hospitals are a critical component of the economy in this area and the state as a whole. Statewide, hospitals directly employ 81,491 employees (full-time and part-time) and indirectly create another 79,518 jobs. Hospitals generate an economic impact of nearly $19 billion for Alabama at a time when we are in desperate need of financial recovery.
Here in Barbour County, we employ and indirectly create 466 jobs. Hospitals like ours are helping this community and the entire state get back on its feet. Make no mistake, if this amendment fails, the health care system in our area will not be the same.
The same services may not be available, the same doctors may not continue to work here and our hospital may be forced to completely change how we conduct business and deliver services.
So, whether you’re concerned about state budgets or Medicaid coverage or our hospital, I urge you to consider this amendment in light of the affect it could have on you and your family.
Please vote “YES” on Sept. 18.