Hospitals fight budget cuts - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Hospitals fight budget cuts

By Tayleigh Davis - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) -  Phoebe Putney Hospital leaders say they may have to come up with an emergency plan if Governor Sonny Perdue's plan to cut medicaid reimbursement rates for doctors and hospitals goes through.

"That kind of impact is dramatic and you'll see serious repercussions if that's done," said Phoebe's Senior Vice President Tommy Chambless.

He says for every dollar Phoebe spends on medicaid patients, the government reimburses 80 cents, but Perdue wants to cut that by 10.25 percent -slashing reimbursements to nearly 70 cents.

"More physicians will stop seeing medicaid patients if they get cut that much more," Chambless said.

A bigger issue is the elimination of the sales tax exemption non-profit hospitals receive when they buy equipment and supplies. That could cost Phoebe an extra 5.6 million dollars a year.

"We have to sit down and look at what we're doing and what we can no longer afford to do," Chambless noted.

One option is to increase nurse to patient ratio. Budget cuts could end up impacting all patients who enter Phoebe Putney's doors. Cole Miller doesn't like the sound of that.

"That would scare me," Miller said. "Everybody's going to get hurt and everyone will need help. I think it would be a big problem because nobody would want to work if they weren't getting paid as much."

Instead of taxing the health care system, Chambless believes a tobacco tax increase- $1 per pack -will help fill Georgia's gaping budget hole.

Chambless says the money raised with a tobacco tax would be matched with federal funding. He says it would make a big dent in the billion dollar budget gap.

Phoebe leaders say the hospital deserves the tax exemption because the hospital provided $112-million in community benefits last year. If they lose it, they say they may have to cut school nurses and education programs.

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