Pennsylvania Urban Hospitals Praise Governor's Plan for Tobacco Funds
PITTSBURGH, Jan. 27 /PRNewswire/ -- Governor Tom Ridge's plan for the expenditure of Pennsylvania's portion of a national settlement with tobacco companies, estimated at $11 billion over the next 25 years, is drawing praise from Pennsylvania's leading urb
Under the plan, released by Ridge on Wednesday, Pennsylvania would devote the funds to a number of important health care-related objectives in Pennsylvania, including an expansion of health insurance coverage for the uninsured and disabled, an expansion of smoking cessation and prevention programs, home and community-based health services, health research, and uncompensated care relief to hospitals which provide health services to the uninsured.
``This plan shows that Governor Ridge understands that providing for the health of Pennsylvania's citizens is one of our state's most important objectives,'' said Irma Goertzen, President of Magee-Womens Health Foundation and a member of The Urban Health Care Coalition of Pennsylvania, which represents many of Pennsylvania's largest and leading hospitals.
Goertzen also praised the Governor's commitment to devoting some 10 percent of the tobacco settlement funds to providing some reimbursement to hospitals for care they provide to the uninsured. Last year, Pennsylvania hospitals provided over $700 million in health services for which they were not reimbursed. Many of Pennsylvania's leading hospitals cite the large amount of uncompensated care expended by hospitals as one of the most significant threats to hospitals' financial viability.
Said Goertzen: ``This plan demonstrates a recognition that hospitals have been burdened in severe ways by the provision of uncompensated care, and it allows us to continue our commitment to providing care to all Pennsylvanians without fear of endangering our institutions financially.'' Goertzen says The Urban Health Care Coalition of Pennsylvania intends to work closely with the Ridge administration and Pennsylvania's General Assembly to ensure that the final plan for Pennsylvania's tobacco settlement funds appropriately addresses the burden of uncompensated care.
Urban hospitals are one of the leading employers in Pennsylvania, employing approximately 207,000 full-time equivalent employees. In recent years, however, hospitals' financial strength has been challenged by the cost constraints presented by managed care and the growing number of uninsured, which has been fueled in part by cuts in eligibility for Medicaid and an increased number of working Pennsylvanians without health insurance. ``We look at this settlement proposal as the first step in breathing new life into our hospitals and ensuring continuing care for the uninsured,'' said Goertzen. ``It permits hospitals to look to the future with a bit more confidence in our financial viability and to focus our efforts on the life-saving work that is the primary obligation we maintain to all Pennsylvanians,'' she said.
The Ridge administration's proposal for the dispensation of the tobacco settlement funds will now move to Pennsylvania's General Assembly, where it is scheduled to be finalized during this spring's budget considerations.