Childress is about 110 miles southeast of Amarillo and 225 miles northwest of Fort Worth on U.S. 287.
The obstetrics division at the Childress hospital wouldn’t be the only one affected if the Medicaid cuts are approved. Nor would it be the worst.
Entire rural hospitals could go out of business. And that could make it difficult for tens of thousands of Texans to get obstetric care, emergency room access and general medical help.
Don McBeath, an official with the Texas Organization for Rural and Community Hospitals, said that the implications of the cuts could be dire and that several rural hospitals across the state could be in danger of shutting down.
“People are going to die because they are not going to get care,” he said.
House and Senate leaders have proposed a 10 percent cut in the rates paid to Medicaid providers, such as doctors and hospitals. But because of the loss of federal matching funds, increasing numbers of Medicaid patients and other factors, the cuts might be actually greater than 10 percent.
The high number of Medicaid patients also could make rural hospitals feel a sharp pain if any cuts are made — particularly because Medicaid pays back doctors and hospitals at less than cost.
“Anything that reduces payments to rural hospitals — because of their narrow margins — could jeopardize their ability to stay open,” McBeath said.
Some rural hospitals have benefited in the past from millions of additional dollars from the state’s Health and Human Services Commission to cover some of the costs. The rural hospital organization has made it a priority to get that money allocated again this legislative session.
But the bump helps only a little bit. Doctors wouldn’t see any of it. And neither would nursing homes or community care programs.
I feel very bad about all of this. What these folks are potentially facing is catastrophic, and yes, life-threatening. But as with the rural school districts, one cannot escape the conclusion that this is what they have voted for themselves. Here are election results from Childress County, which is the central feature of this story:
Governor Rick Perry REP 774 70.17% Bill White DEM 293 26.56% Kathie Glass LIB 28 2.53% Deb Shafto GRN 8 0.72% Andy Barron W-I 0 0.00% ----------- Race Total 1,103 ---------------------------------------- Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst REP 891 81.36% Linda Chavez-Thompson DEM 165 15.06% Scott Jameson LIB 30 2.73% Herb Gonzales, Jr. GRN 9 0.82% ----------- Race Total 1,095
In addition, Childress County is represented in the Legislature by Warren Chisum, who believes that only virtuous people deserve health care, and whose district overall went 77% for Perry. I don’t know how many of those people are worthy of health care in Chisum’s eye, but it doesn’t really matter because if he has his way they won’t get it anyway. I don’t know what these folks will do if the budget goes through as is and decimates their access to medical care, but I do know who they need to hold responsible for it when it happens.