Texas health officials listening to fears of lost money for hospitals

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AUSTIN (KXAN) – Texas hospitals could lose around $29 billion over the next five years. Last session, state leaders said Medicaid was too expensive and wasteful. They decided not to expand the program with the Affordable Care Act. Because of that, the federal government may stop paying for some Texans’ healthcare.

The law says hospitals have to treat patients. But who pays for the un-insured? For years, the Federal Government paid billions. But since we’re not expanding medicaid over the poverty level, they’ve hinted that cash flow could stop.

“I’m always looking for a new challenge. I don’t know why I did it in my mid-life crisis,” said Mary Dale Peterson. As a doctor, she says they’re oath-bound to deliver care. If billions of dollars from the Feds go away, she says local taxes could go up to pay for stressed local clinics, or we all could pay more in health insurance premiums.

“It’ll be on all of us, and so that will just increase our insurance premiums, as the cost of care increase,” she said.

The people at the Health and Human Services Commission Thursday, were not politicians, but they have to implement their decisions. Local health care officials came to testify to the Health and Human Services commission.

“Really, for what we need in our area, our patients need coverage,” said Cam Kleibrink, executive director of Frontera Healthcare Network, that provides healthcare to mostly rural Texans.

Texas leaders will apply for the money this year. Washington has hinted not expanding Medicaid comes with consequences, they might not pay for the un-insured the state doesn’t want to insure.

“You only have what you have and you have to spend it in the most efficient way possible, but there’s still a limit,” said Peterson.

Texas already has the highest rate of people without health insurance and if we don’t get the money, many say services will go down, or prices will go up.

Expanding Medicaid uses mostly your Federal tax dollars. But over the years Medicaid became a larger and larger part of the state budget, that’s why our leaders said they didn’t expand it.

Next year, around 30 percent of all of your state taxes will go to pay for Medicaid.

Hospitals in Florida were also in jeopardy of losing federal funds because they refused to expand Medicaid. The issue actually forced Florida lawmakers to hold a special legislative session. In the last few weeks — lawmakers worked out a compromise. It includes more state dollars, federal funds and raises medicaid rates for hospitals.

Texas HHSC officials plan to apply for the “hospital waiver” by September 2015.

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