"This budget sorts the must-haves from the nice-to-haves."
With those words, Governor Tom Corbett established the priority framework of his first budget as the state's chief executive.
However, for Pennsylvania's 12 million citizens, the reality is markedly different: The Governor's budget proposes to cut hospital Medicaid payments by more than $150 million in state funds, the effects of which will be compounded by the loss of an additional $183 million in federal matching funds, resulting in $333 million in hospital payment reductions.
In our area, in Blair and Huntingdon Counties the collective reduction for Altoona Regional Health System, Nason Hospital, Tyrone Hospital and J.C. Blair Memorial Hospital translates to nearly $4 million in combined state and federal Medicaid cuts.
These cuts will jeopardize access to hospital care for expectant moms, automobile accident victims, burn victims, and the seriously ill.
The young, the elderly and persons with disabilities - the people least able to work - will potentially face the loss of critical hospital services in Blair and Huntingdon Counties and in urban, suburban, and rural communities across the state.
In his budget address Governor Corbett said, "We need to do the hard cutting so the tree can once again bear fruit. And that fruit is jobs."
Again, this budget goal does not consider one of Pennsylvania's key job creators: hospitals.
While the Governor's budget address emphasized jobs and job creation, the proposed budget endangers jobs in every community, as hospitals are among the state's leading and most stable providers of jobs in every region of the commonwealth.
Overall, hospitals are responsible for nearly 600,000 health care-related jobs and $100 billion in economic impact to the state.
The hospitals in Blair and Huntingdon Counties together are responsible for nearly $681 million in economic activity, and more than 5,000 jobs, including the ripple economic benefit.
In fact, in Blair and Huntingdon Counties, hospitals are among the largest employers in the communities where they are located.
Pennsylvania's hospitals are mindful of the budget realities facing Pennsylvania.
In fact, in the current fiscal year through 2013, the state's hospital community will contribute approximately $246 million in revenue to the state's general fund to help with the budget challenge, while negotiating a new Medicaid payment system that is not reliant on any new state funding.
Hospitals are doing their part to help in these difficult economic times and to assure that patients have access to quality care.
But in a proposed budget that has been widely characterized as business-friendly, hospitals' roles as job creators and economic engines of their communities are threatened.
Hospital care is a must-have, not a nice-to-have, for all Pennsylvanians, and it must be available to all Pennsylvanians. We urge the Governor and legislature to restore hospital Medicaid funds in the final budget.
Jerry Murray, CEO, Altoona Hospital
Joseph Peluso, CEO, J. C. Blair Memorial Hospital
Garrett Hoover, CEO, Nason Hospital
Stephen Gildea, CEO, Tyrone Hospital