Voters need to mark "Yes" Sept. 18

The doctors, hospitals and other health care providers in our area greatly need your support to pass the Sept. 18 amendment that would allow the state to temporarily go into its savings account to fund critical state programs.  More importantly, you and the other patients served by these providers need to know what’s at stake if the amendment fails.

Hospitals are a critical component of the economy in this area and the state as a whole.  Statewide, hospitals directly employ 81,491 employees (full-time and part-time) and indirectly create another 79,518 jobs.  Hospitals generate an economic impact of nearly $19 billion for Alabama, an impact that is crucial to a state in desperate need of financial recovery.

In Marengo county, we employ 320 people and indirectly create 300 additional jobs.  Our economic impact is $48 million.  Hospitals like ours are helping this community and the entire state get back on its feet, and we cannot afford to risk losing this huge economic engine through a failed vote on Sept. 18.

How would local hospitals and doctors be affected by the vote?  Basically, if voters reject the amendment on Sept. 18, and the Governor is forced to cut up to 17 percent more from state agencies on top of the cuts taken this year, Medicaid would likely collapse.  There simply aren’t enough optional programs for the state to eliminate and still qualify for federal matching funds, which currently make up about 90 percent of the state’s budget.  So, without the federal funding, Medicaid, a program that provides health coverage to approximately 20 percent of Alabamians, would fail.

On average, Medicaid represents about 15 percent of a hospital’s business.  Locally, however, the percentage is much higher.  At Bryan W. Whitfield Memorial Hospital, for example, 35 percent of the hospital’s inpatients are covered by Medicaid with 86 percent of all deliveries covered by Medicaid.   Most pediatricians have about 40 percent of their patients on Medicaid, some are much higher.  So, you can see how a collapse of the Medicaid program would result in hospitals, doctors and other health care providers having to cut their budgets significantly, including cutting services, staffing, and in some cases, even having to close their doors.

Even if the state didn’t lose its federal funding, there would still be such drastic cuts that the health care system would be devastated.  In addition to hospitals and doctors, funding for dialysis, prescription medications for adults, critical transportation for children, and in-home care would all be greatly reduced or eliminated altogether. Without these basic services, Medicaid recipients would be forced to use hospital emergency rooms as their primary source of health care, which would be expensive, create overcrowding, and limit access for most of our citizens.

Make no mistake, if this amendment fails, our health care system will not be the same.  The same services may not be available, the same doctors may not continue to work here, and our hospital may be forced to completely change how we conduct business and deliver services.

The only way we can guarantee that the medical care you need will continue to be available for the foreseeable future, is if the constitutional amendment passes.  For the sake of our hospital, our community, and the health and well-being of our people, please vote “YES