Millions could be cut from Shands
Published: Sunday, January 23, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 23, 2005 at 4:19 a.m.
Shands' network of hospitals, the safety net for the uninsured and indigent, stands to lose $20 million in Medicaid and other health-care cuts under Gov. Jeb Bush's proposed budget.
Any new money for the University of Florida, the state's largest higher education institution, will be coming from tuition increases. The governor has suggested a 7.5 percent increase for in-state undergraduates, while universities are free to raise graduate and out-of-state tuition to any level as needed. UF's base budget remains flat in the proposed budget.
University officials continue to analyze the potential impacts of the governor's budget, even though it is only a starting point for discussions when the Legislature convenes on March 8.
UF President Bernie Machen told the Faculty Senate last week that there is "good news and not so good news" in the budget proposal.
Shands and its six hospitals, which according to a hospital spokesman handle 30 percent of the charity care in the state, could fare the worst with at least $20 million less in Medicaid and funding for the Medically Needy program.
The Medically Needy program is designed to help people who don't have private insurance, but also make too much to qualify for Medicaid. They include cancer survivors, HIV/AIDS patients, organ-transplant recipients, chronic asthma sufferers and those with major brain-stem injuries. "That's a huge deficit to start negotiations with," Machen said.
About 45 percent of the patient base at Shands at UF are those who can't afford to pay or are uninsured, said Lance Skelly, a spokesman with the hospital. At Shands Jacksonville, the number hovers around 40 percent.
Shands HealthCare began last year's budget-setting season facing a similar funding deficit. It ended up losing about $10 million, Skelly said.
This year's worst-case scenario could strap the hospitals, but no services are on the horizon to be cut.
"We hope it won't come to that," Skelly said.
On campus, Machen is watching the budget closely.
While Machen has said faculty salary raises are a major budget priority, Bush did not include any extra money in the budget for that.
Like last year, however, any money raised from an increase in tuition - a number that could not be provided by UF - can be used in whatever way the university chooses.
Faculty raises, new programs, higher costs, and perhaps a host of other needs, could end up competing for tuition funds.
Machen has made no promises.
UF's lobbyists could be busy this session. Many of the university's requests were not granted in the governor's budget.
UF officials aren't discouraged by the numbers - not yet anyway.
"The most important thing is to remember is this is the start of a process and that clearly we will be talking to legislators as the process continues about the importance of these projects," said Jane Adams, UF's vice president of university relations.
Janine Young Sikes can be reached at (352) 337-0327 or email@example.com.
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