Originally created 02/20/03

MCG could end jobs, services



Jobs might be cut at Medical College of Georgia Hospital and popular but money-hemorrhaging services such as the outpatient pharmacy shut down if the state follows through on 10 percent across-the-board cuts in Medicaid, the hospital CEO warned.

And that's if state legislators find the gumption to raise alcohol and tobacco taxes.

At a meeting Wednesday of the board of MCG Health Inc., which oversees the clinical operations, CEO Don Snell outlined the impact of those potential cuts on MCG, where 31 percent of revenue comes from the Medicaid program. It would total about $26 million next year just for MCG, he said.

"Will that close our doors? No," Mr. Snell said. "What it will do is take away from our ability to do all of those loss-leader (money-losing) programs."

The outpatient pharmacy, for instance, loses between $5 million and $7 million a year, in part because patients from throughout the state show up to get prescriptions filled and can also get primary care, with little reimbursement to the hospital, Mr. Snell said.

To make up for the cuts in personnel, the system would have to cut 107 to 160 jobs, probably in those money-losing areas, Mr. Snell said. The hospital system would try to retain its goal of an 8 percent return next year, in part to keep about $12 million a year flowing to the Medical College of Georgia for strategic recruitment and program enhancement, Mr. Snell said.

Asked whether he would choose closing the pharmacy over maintaining the return, Mr. Snell said, "I would probably do something balanced there. I would look at what is absolutely necessary to maintain for our core population, but I would look then at some reductions to that."

A move to close some services at the pharmacy in 1997 resulted in an uproar from patients and state legislators.

The school has suffered $3.7 million in cuts this year but is not planning on cutting personnel, MCG President Daniel Rahn said.

"We are not anticipating eliminating positions or personnel unless we have to sustain further cuts," Dr. Rahn said.

Not every provider would feel the full brunt of the $351.2 million cuts in Medicaid and indigent care - some would see a 3.2 percent offset to help ease the sting, said Andy Boisseau, the spokesman for the Georgia Department of Community Health, which oversees the program.

Mr. Snell said providers are hopeful the state can still maximize some payments for indigent care from the federal government that may not have been fully utilized in past years. But Mr. Boisseau said every state agency is already under orders to get all they can from those programs.

"We're always looking for additional federal revenues," he said.

Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213 or tomc@augustachronicle.com.