Sunday, November 16, 2008

Providers close doors to poor

A must Read!

Budget cuts in the state’s Medicaid program are forcing a major shift in where Nevada’s poor can seek health care.

Cancer patients who had received outpatient treatment at University Medical Center, for instance, will have to seek treatment at other hospitals and clinics because UMC, citing reductions in Medicaid payments, says it can no longer afford to offer cancer treatment.

Low-income children with bone and spine problems may need to leave Las Vegas altogether for treatment, because pediatric orthopedists are no longer accepting payment from Medicaid because of cutbacks to their reimbursements.

And on Tuesday, UMC administrators will tell Clark County commissioners what treatments and programs they may need to drop because Medicaid payments don’t cover the hospital’s costs, and the hospital can’t afford to go in the hole.

Indeed, the Nevada State Medical Association said other pediatric specialists may also stop taking Medicaid patients because the government reimbursements don’t cover the cost of delivering the care.

“I really feel we’re heading for a precipice and I think somebody needs to be candid about this,” said Dr. Carl Heard, chief executive of Nevada Health Centers, a nonprofit organization that operates clinics for low-income patients. “I just don’t know that we’ve seen a path to follow or that the leadership is stepping up to fill the void.”

Health care experts — including the Medicaid administrator — say the cutbacks are a shortsighted way to save money at the expense of patients who have dire medical needs. Such reductions will lead to increased costs down the road when those patients — having gone without intermediate care — end up receiving costly emergency room care.

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