Vote yes on Tax Reform package September 9

Published 10:37 am Wednesday, July 30, 2003

By Staff
Dear Editor,
I have received permission from Dr.John Brandon, a family practice physician, in Gordo AL…to print his letter. He wrote the letter to Editor at The Tuscaloosa News and it tells it all in regards to the present dependence of the health care system on Medicaid funds…. many people have the mistaken idea that Amendment One ( the Accountability and Tax Reform Plan ) pertains only to the educational system but this is far from the truth. Please read this letter carefully and be informed as to the long range damage to the health care system that will occur if this amendment fails on September 9th.
Also please consider yourself personally invited to hear Governor Riley address our county at the Escambia County Tax Reform Summit on September 9. The Summit will be held at the Flomaton High School Auditorium at 6:00 PM. Governor Riley will speak and then be available for questions until 7:30. This is a great opportunity to hear the Governor as well as to get your questions answered. I look forward to seeing each of you there. Thanks for reading Dr. Brandon's letter.
Ruth Harrell RN, MPH
Dear Editor,
On Tuesday, July 15 you published a letter from Mr. Wythe Holt who wrote "If the tax reform package fails…Four hundred fifty thousand Alabamians will lose their access to health care." He is half right because that is how many Alabama citizens rely on Medicaid in this state to assist them with medical and pharmaceutical expenses. But the more accurate and realistic number is over 4 million. In other words, ALL of us.
If Medicaid fails to meet its obligations for the poorest and most disadvantaged in Alabama, the rural health care system in Alabama, such as it is, will soon collapse. Most practicing rural physicians' offices could not continue to survive as small businesses without that agency's funds for the care of many of their patients. And each of the rural hospitals would soon be forced into bankruptcy as their bottom lines are currently marginal at best. There is simply no way possible for the rural health care now delivered in Alabama to be sustained without Medicaid funding.
These 450,000 Medicaid recipients, in both rural and urban areas, would suddenly find themselves without their normal medicines, many of which are life sustaining. (Medicaid covers most pharmaceuticals for the indigent in Alabama.) Where would these folks now go for treatment when they are no longer able to acquire insulin, heart and high blood pressure medicines, asthma treatment, psychiatric medications, and antibiotics? Obviously they would flood the more urban hospitals and overwhelm the emergency rooms there with diabetic comas, heart attacks, strokes, severe lung diseases, psychotic crises, and massive infections. If any of you think hospital emergency room waiting times are long now, imagine the results of the closure of 50-70 rural hospitals in this state. The crisis in Health Care created by the failure to sustain Medicaid would be disastrous for all of us. And of course given the above scenario, the urban health care systems would also soon deteriorate as more and more patients are admitted with ever increasing serious illnesses and with no ability to pay for their care.
I have personally talked to several people in the administration of Alabama's Medicaid Agency, and with hospital administrators (both rural and urban), and with leadership in the Medical Association of the State of Alabama. None of these people doubt that the outcome as outlined above would occur. Right or wrong, good or bad, the ENTIRE health care system in Alabama relies on Medicaid, as funded by the state of Alabama's general budget. We are fortunate in Alabama in that for every tax dollar we raise for Medicaid, the federal government will send directly to Alabama's Medicaid approximately $2.70. I know of no other investment that provides an immediate 270% return on each $1.00 invested. And the entire $3.70 stays right in Alabama: to pay for necessary medications, much needed nurses salaries, emergency surgeries, nursing home care for the indigent, and literally thousands of other medical and health care needs of Alabama's most financially disadvantaged citizens.
And finally the four medical school campuses in Alabama (Birmingham, Huntsville, Mobile, and Tuscaloosa) are dependent for their survival on both the special education budget as teaching institutes and the general budget through Medicaid dollars. Do we in Alabama seriously think that we can train our future physicians without those 4 critical medical schools? If the proposed tax reform measures fail on September 9th, we will soon see if we can do so. Let's hope we don't face the very real crisis outlined above.
Please join me in voting "YES". Your own health depends on it!
John Brandon, M.D.

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