Missouri Hospital Association members responding to a survey said they cut almost 1,000 jobs in the last six months and froze hiring for another 2,145 openings, a labor contraction that the association attributes to reductions in federal funding.
The first area of federal funding reduction was for covering patients in the Medicare and Medicaid programs, and the second area of reduction was the money paid to hospitals to offset the cost of caring for the uninsured, according to the MHA survey. The association projects those federal cuts, coming in part because of the federal budget sequestration last year, will total $4 billion by 2019.
The survey, which drew responses from 84 hospitals in Missouri, shows the cuts impact more than staffing. The MHA says some member hospitals have stopped construction projects and equipment purchases and as well as outreach services for rural health clinics. “We’re starting to see medical deserts created in parts of the state,” Missouri Hospital Association CEO Herb Kuhn told the Associated Press Wednesday.
The MHA is working with the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry to persuade the state General Assembly to expand Medicaid eligibility, which they say would bring in the money hospitals need to avoid further cutbacks.
“So much of this debate has been about the philosophical dilemma over reforming Medicaid,” Dan Mehan, the Missouri Chamber president and CEO, said in a news release. “We are here today to demonstrate the very real dilemmas of inaction. We are talking about real workers who are losing their jobs. We are talking about real community hospitals that will be forced to reduce services or shut their doors. We are talking about real people suffering from heart attacks, strokes or other emergency medical conditions that will have to drive an hour and a half to the nearest hospital.”
The Missouri Chamber has hired former Republican Senator Christopher “Kit” Bond to help its cause. However, Missouri Senate Republicans called bringing Medicaid expansion to the floor for discussion a “nonstarter” this week. In addition, the House on Wednesday held a public hearing on three bills related to Medicaid, and afterward voted against amending the state budget bill to expand the program’s eligibility. Legislators supporting expansion are expected to make more attempts before the session ends May 16.