By Mike Riege, VGH

Virginia Gay Hospital operates solely on payments for the medical services we provide. Because we receive no tax subsidy from local or county government, I want to know who is going to care for our elderly if half or more of the funding for nursing home and home health services disappears as a result of proposed cuts to Medicaid in the health care bill currently under consideration in Congress.

Our long term care unit is typical of the nation as a whole where some 50% of resident care is paid for through Medicaid. While only 6% of Medicaid patients are elderly and in a long term care environment, 42% of all Medicaid spending is for those elderly Americans.

The estimated loss of revenue from Medicaid patients in long term care or receiving home health services from Virginia Gay is $400,000 annually. If we consider the impact on the hospital, as well as home health and long term care, the revenue lost from the Medicaid cuts is $900,000 annually. The long term result of these cuts, and the increase in care we’re never paid for, is that hospitals like ours could lose $9 for every $100 of patient services we provide.

The dollar amounts are so massive that the passage of this bill would impact providers to the point that we cannot take care of the frail elderly. Nursing facilities and home health providers may have to close. On top of that no one knows what the impact will be from millions of Americans losing the ability to pay for health insurance, or being forced to purchase no-frills plans that don’t cover diagnostic tests for diseases that are extremely expensive to treat and/or deadly, like colon cancer.

In the health care debate our nation is being challenged to make a choice, a choice between providing genuine compassion and care for our elders and citizens, or to accept this legislation without concern for the consequences. But “the nation” isn’t making this choice, we are.

Please, make your choice known by contacting your senators.

You can reach Senator Charles Grassley’s office at 202-224-3744. Senator Joni Ernst’s office can be called at 202-224-3254. To send emails visit www.ernst.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/contact for Senator Ernst, and www.grassley.senate.gov/contact for Senator Grassley.

Mike Riege

Administrator

Virginia Gay Hospital and Clinics

Vinton, IA