Gov. Bill Haslam is shrugging off the suggestion that reductions at Vanderbilt University Medical Center could have been avoided had he taken the federal government’s offer to expand Medicaid.
Vanderbilt University Medical Center announced another round of layoffs to total 1,000 job reductions by the end of the year. Meanwhile, Haslam said he is still negotiating a deal to expand health coverage to low income people without expanding the state’s Medicaid program called TennCare.
“One of the things that has led me to keep trying to come up with a solution that works is we are concerned about the health care providers around the state, whether it be Vanderbilt or some of our smaller rural providers which are in an even more tenuous situation,” he told reporters Wednesday.
Haslam pointed to a combination of factors that are leaving hospitals in tight spots, such as changing payments on Medicare, the impact of the sequestration in addition to the state’s decision in the spring not to expand TennCare using federal dollars while it seeks an alternative Tennessee-specific plan.
“I think the things that are impacting Vanderbilt, as big as they are, is felt even more strongly if you’re a small rural hospital,” said Haslam.
Mental Health Commissioner Doug Varney described $15 million in potential cuts in the state's mental health and alcohol and drug abuse services. Most of those programs were paid for this past year with federal economic stimulus money. “With this safety net, we can’t just keep cutting little pieces of the fingers off," Varney told the governor. "Pretty soon the hands won’t work. I think we may have to decide to cut a finger off here or there, and that’s what we do. At least the hands will still work.”