A letter in the Feb. 16, 2010, Tomahawk Leader:
On Jan. 1, the State began cutting $15 million in payments to rural hospitals like Ministry Health Care’s Sacred Heart Hospital in Tomahawk that care for low-income, uninsured people on Medicaid. Known as “critical access hospitals,” these hospitals provide all rural citizens with nearby quality care as well as thousands of good paying jobs.
With the economy struggling, Medicaid enrollment is increasing and so are hospital losses from charity care as more people lose their health insurance. The economy is taking a toll on most everyone, including many of our hospitals.
Nearly half Wisconsin’s rural hospitals are either losing money or barely breaking even. Many have been forced to reduce services and some have eliminated jobs. Massive cuts to Medicaid will make this even worse.
Current estimates indicate that more than one-million people in Wisconsin are now receiving Medicaid benefits. This number is increasing at a rapid rate and many are our neighbors and friends who live in rural areas like Lincoln County and north central Wisconsin.
In these challenging economic times, Sacred Heart Hospital has been fortunate to be able to provide high-quality services to our community without significant reductions in services and staff. However, the projected influx of Medicaid eligible people in our area and across the state is an area of great concern.
Medicaid is a state/federal partnership. Historically, for every $1 Wisconsin puts in, Washington adds about $1.50. This cost sharing encourages states to provide health care to those without insurance. But there is a problem: when Wisconsin cuts $6 million from Medicaid, it sends $9 million in matching federal health care dollars back to Washington … for other states to use. Wisconsin deserves these dollars as much as any other state.
Fortunately, rural hospitals have a solution – a modest assessment (1.6%) on each hospital’s revenues that will be put into Medicaid and capture Wisconsin’s fair share of federal health care dollars. The additional money will be used to increase, not cut, Medicaid payments and preserve rural hospital services and jobs.
Please join me in asking our state legislators to stop these devastating cuts and protect the health of rural Wisconsin by voting for the rural hospital assessment.
Monica Hilt, President
Sacred Heart-Saint Mary’s Hospitals