Hospital CEOs Push For Tobacco Tax To Stop Medicaid Cuts

Wednesday, April 27th 2016, 6:59 pm
By: Aaron Brilbeck

CEO's from the state's top hospitals and nursing homes are trying to find a way to avoid losing millions dollars. They're urging lawmakers to back a tobacco tax to help offset an estimated 25-percent cut in Medicaid reimbursements.

The state's $1.3 billion budget crisis has now become a healthcare crisis, with patients left in the lurch.

Roger Knack, CEO of Fairview Regional Medical Center, spent the day at the capitol going office to office, asking lawmakers to approve a plan for an increase in tobacco taxes by $1.50 a pack. He says that, plus a plan to knock thousands of people off Medicaid and on to private insurance, could help stave off proposed 25-percent cuts to Medicaid. 

Without it, Knack says he doesn't know what the future will bring for his facility.

"If we end up with a cut on top of a cut on top of a cut, we're already about to bare bones. Laying off staff used to be the easy answer. We're already down to where I don't have the extra staff to lay off," said Knack.

The governor backs the tax increase on tobacco, but most legislators we talked with are lukewarm, at best, to the idea. If nothing is done, those 25-percent cuts in Medicaid provider payments are set to go into effect June 1.