Minnesota's largest physician group and some small, independent hospitals told lawmakers Wednesday that they can't support a DFL-backed bill that would extend the state's soon-to-expire General Assistance Medical Care program for another 16 months.
Dr. David Thorson chairs the Minnesota Medical Association's Board of Trustees and says the bill cuts GAMC payments to doctors and clinics by 50 percent.
"We have to find another way to solve this problem," Thorson said. "We're talking about patients who are the most needy and we have to figure out how we can solve this problem, but we can't do it on the backs of providers and expecting cost shifting to be able to have that happen."
Lawmakers told Thorson they understand the bill is not ideal, but they said without the legislation providers wouldn't get any money to care for those patients.
At the same time, some small, independent hospital told lawmakers the bill would threaten their survival. Robert Stevens, CEO of Ridgeview Medical Center in Waconia, said the legislation would eat up 4.5 percent of his hospital's budget, which he says is not sustainable.
"I have bondholders," Stevens says. "I have banks that I have to have a profit for and I need days cash on hand, and if it evaporates through this mechanism, that's a horrendous hardship."
Gov. Tim Pawlenty eliminated funding for the GAMC program when he made unallotment cuts last year to balance the state's budget. The program is scheduled to end April 1.