The Legislative "Duck" Gets Closer Focus
Commissioner Tommy Adkisson
April 24, 2003
Recently I have been having a little fun with an analogy of the whopping tax increase the Legislature is currently planning to send all of us property taxpayers here at the County to a "duck". All of this is done while State leaders proudly proclaim a "no new taxes" stance. The analogy of a "duck" is derived from the proverbial saying, that if something looks like one and acts like one, it is a duck. Now with the recent passage of House Bill 1 in the Texas House of Representatives, the "duck" is coming into closer focus.
Jeff Turner, Chief Executive Officer of the University Health System (your County hospital also known as UHS) now gives his assessment of the financial impact of House Bill 1 on us here in Bexar County. He informs us that "the current bill and other measures under consideration will lead to a dramatic increase in Bexar County's uninsured population while slashing reimbursement for services at the University Health System." You may recognize the UHS initials from those on the chopper belly of our national class, American Trauma Society 2001 "First Responder of the Year" award-winning medical air flight service. Or you may recall that for the past three years U.S. News & World Report surveyed over 7,000 hospitals nationally and selected the UHS as one of the "Top Fifty Hospitals in the Nation"!
Turner continues, "In human terms, our analysis indicates that the uninsured will grow by approximately 67,000 people and will force uninsured patients into already overcrowded emergency rooms or to do without needed care altogether." As you surely must recognize, many of our friends including sometimes you and I are in those emergency rooms for desperately needed medical attention. The hard reality is that if the average middle class person goes without a paycheck for 90 days, he or she likely will qualify for some form of public assistance. It's not just some welfare cheat that gets the ax here!
CEO Turner further informs us that "If just 40 percent of these newly uninsured seek care through the CareLink program, the annual cost to the Health System will be more than $47 million. The direct impact alone will be $27 million in funding reductions for UHS, and $5.7 million for the Center for Health Care Services (your County hospital mental health care provider also known as CHCS). The sum of these reimbursement reductions and the dramatic increase in Bexar County's uninsured population will require a 62% increase in the Bexar County Hospital District property tax rate."
Finally, the Perryman Economic Group, a highly respected business and economic consultant for many years here in Texas "predicts a substantial number of Bexar County jobs could be lost (possibly up to 9,000) through all sectors of our economy."
And while I'm quoting much more knowledgeable sources than myself, allow me to quote Dr. Francisco Cigarroa, M.D., the eminent President of the University of Texas Health Science Center in a speech he made not so long ago regarding his world-class institution. The University Health System and the U.T. Health Science Center have a financial partnership so that what fiscally impacts one, spills over on the well-being of the other. Here's Dr. Cigarroa:
"Let me brag just a bit - as any proud president would! The Palmaz Stent, invented by one of our own faculty members, Dr. Julio Palmaz, is now used in 2 million stent procedures every year and it is saving millions of lives all around the world.
Our own Dr. Robert Campbell invented something called the Titanium Rib and now babies who were destined never to breathe properly - and therefore, could not live for more than a few years - are living full, rich lives.
Dr. Peter Fox is known all over the world for his mapping of the human brain. His work shows parts of the brain are working correctly - and which are not - and that leads researchers to the next step: determining how to fix the parts of the brain that don't work properly!
Dr. John Calhoon is discovering less invasive ways to perform the most complicated surgery through the smallest of incisions. What used to require your entire chest being opened can now be done through an incision the width of your index finger.
Dr. Bankole Johnson, whom you met earlier, is leading the nation in addiction research and his breakthrough work has been published all over the world.
One of our great cardiologists, Dr. Steve Bailey, is studying ways to help the heart regenerate itself by growing new vessels and new muscles after a heart attack.
Dr. Mary MacDougall and her team in our dental school are growing new teeth, which will revolutionize dental care."
We spent a lot of time and effort to attract these physicians to produce a world-class reputation right here in Bexar County. We have come a long way but we have a long way to go. Neither the Legislature nor the federal government should prevent us from achieving national and yes, world-class status in medicine. Instead, they should continue the partnership for great progress long-established by our leadership. But the ultimate power to stop this march to mediocrity is vested in the people. Will you please help?
You may write your legislators and the leadership of our State: the Governor, Lieutenant Governor and Speaker of the House. Let's not wish we had held on to our treasured assets. Let's save them now!