Local officials to pressure state over funding for The MED

By Kontji Anthony - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Shelby County leaders may soon put more pressure on Tennessee's government over claims the state has been using money meant for The MED to balance the its budget.

Before Monday night's State of the State Address, Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen told reporters The MED would not get $22 million in funding recently requested by local leaders.  Among those leaders who paid a recent visit to Nashville was interim Shelby County Mayor Joe Ford.

"There are other avenues we're looking at to try to save The MED," Ford said Tuesday.

Those avenues include city, county and federal money.  In fact, the Shelby County Commission has already pledged $10 million for this fiscal year.

"I'm hoping that when we go to City Council next Tuesday, that we can get seven votes for $2 million," Ford said.

But Ford, along with County Commissioners, believes the county would not be in this mess if the state wasn't holding out on millions of federal dollars meant for The MED.

"It comes back to Nashville and it stops there," Ford said.

To that end, Commissioner Mike Ritz has been circulating a spreadsheet comparing the state's payments to The MED versus other public hospitals.

For example, The MED and Nashville's Vanderbilt show two different stories.  In 2008, the state collected about $84 million dollars from the federal government to reimburse The MED for unpaid health care and Medicaid.

Vanderbilt received nothing.

Still, the state of Tennessee kept almost $50 million of The MED's money, while giving $20.3 million to Vanderbilt.

Vanderbilt also receives federal funds from other sources.

"We really would like for the governor and the legislature to send us that money," Ford said. "We could build a brand new MED and we'd be in the black and we wouldn't be around here trying to raise money."

Could a lawsuit could be on the horizon?

"I don't want to sue the state, but it's a possibility the County Commissioners could do that," Ford said.

In a written statement released Tuesday afternoon, MED Board Chairman Gene Holcomb said, "The proposed budget will result in at least $52 million in cuts for The MED effective July 1, 2010.  The MED cannot sustain the reductions that will be realized if the Governor's budget becomes a reality."

Holcomb's full statement is below:

State of Tennessee Proposed Budget Impact on The MED

Statement from Gene Holcomb

Chairman, Board of Directors

Regional Medical Center at Memphis

MEMPHIS, Tenn. –  It is the opinion of the Regional Medical Center at Memphis (The MED) that the hospital will be absolutely unsustainable if the budget proposed by Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen is approved.  As presented by the Governor, the proposed budget places the entire health care delivery system at risk and jeopardizes access to quality health care for all citizens – particularly our most vulnerable citizens in urban and rural areas. 

Most significantly, the proposed budget directly places The MED at significant risk for closure.  The proposed budget will result in at least $52 million in cuts for The MED effective July 1, 2010.  The MED cannot sustain the reductions that will be realized if the Governor's budget becomes a reality. 

The MED is committed to our strategic plan, which includes a focus on sustaining core services for our community.  We are committed to maintaining those services provided at The MED not available elsewhere in the region.  These services, such as the Level 1 Trauma Center, Burn Center and High Risk Obstetrics and Newborn Center are invaluable to our community.

We appreciate the financial situation of the State of Tennessee.  However, The MED has a sound fiscal plan that requires continued funding assistance from the State.  The MED has been historically under funded and consistently provides a large amount of indigent care.  In fact, more than 30 percent of The MED's patients are self-pay.  It is vital to the health of this community that a budget is passed that protects access to quality health care and keeps the doors open to the only Level I Trauma Center and safety net facility in this region.

The MED asks the Tennessee General Assembly to reject the Governor's proposed TennCare budget.  The State and TennCare reserves total almost $900 million; these reserves can and should be tapped to protect vital and essential services to our entire population.  We will work closely with members of the Shelby County legislative delegation and the entire General Assembly to avoid the crippling cuts proposed by Governor Bredesen.

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