With St. Joseph County’s unemployment rate still sitting above 10 percent, things could be getting worse thanks to cuts at Memorial Hospital. Those cuts began back in June and hospital leaders say there's no end in sight.
While hospital leaders admit the economy sparked this problem, it says the Obama Health Care Reform Act gave the hospital a one-two punch. While more people may soon get more health coverage, Obama’s plan cuts reimbursement dollars for hospitals at a time administrators say they could use them most.
If you roll up a chair and type your way to Memorial Hospital's web site, you can click your way through 45 active job openings. Pay the hospital a visit and you’ll see it’s still getting patients and paying for construction improvements. So why would it cut nearly fifty jobs in just five months?
"No more discriminating against children with pre-existing conditions. No more retroactively dropping someone's policy when they get sick, those days are over,” President Obama said at a June press conference.
Hospital leaders say the days of high-priced insurance may be over, but add that the days of cuts are here. In a statement the hospital said:
"Health care reform in its current state has already started to cut reimbursement rates to hospitals across the region and the country and we expect that reality to get worse moving forward."
It’s a catch 22; increased health insurance at the cost of hospital staffing.
"That’s a hard thing to say, you can't really pick between both of them. People need jobs and people need good health care too,” South Bend resident Alice McGee said.
"I think it should get better as time goes on. Once the system really gets going and the bill picks up speed, I think it should get better,” Washington High School junior Gabriellee Lee said after completing a shadow day at Memorial Hospital.
But better hasn't come soon enough, Memorial Hospital says eliminating cuts is nowhere in sight.
Memorial Hospital’s cuts in federal reimbursement dollars come mostly from Medicare and Medicaid. Memorial is not alone; most hospitals across the region and nation are facing similar issues.
NewsCenter 16 spoke with leaders at St. Joseph Regional Medical Center who say the hospital has no plans to layoff any of its 2,300 employees. The hospital did make cuts back in May of 2009, the same year it opened its new $355 million facility.