SBMC president touts Sept. 18 vote

Published 3:21 pm Thursday, September 13, 2012

From left, State Rep. April Weaver, R-Brierfield, and Shelby Baptist Medical Center President David Wilson speak during a Sept. 13 meeting of the Alabaster-Pelham Rotary Club. (Reporter Photo/Neal Wagner)

 By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

Shelby Baptist Medical Center President David Wilson said the state’s health care industry and several state agencies could face significant cuts if a Sept. 18 plan to allow the state to use money from the Alabama Trust Fund to support Alabama’s ailing general fund budget.

Wilson’s remarks came during a Sept. 13 meeting of the Alabaster-Pelham Rotary Club at Shelby Baptist.

During the meeting, Wilson and state Rep. April Weaver, R-Brierfield, the medical center’s director of business development, encouraged Alabama residents to vote in favor of the plan during a Sept. 18 election.

Through the election, voters will be able to decide whether or not to allow the state to take money out of the Trust Fund for the next three years to prop up the general fund budget.

The Alabama Trust Fund is separate from the state’s education trust fund, and is composed of taxes collected from the state’s oil and gas production.

If the motion fails, Wilson said Alabama’s Medicaid program will be heavily impacted. The state Medicaid program currently reimburses health care providers across the state when those providers treat a patient who is on Medicaid.

“Currently, Medicaid typically reimburses us much less than our costs (to treat the patient),” Wilson said, noting if the Sept. 18 vote fails, it will financially impact all hospitals across the state because Medicaid’s reimbursement amount could decrease.

Wilson said up to 80 percent “of all community pharmacies in Alabama” could close if the vote fails.

If the plan to transfer funds is voted down, it also could mean heavy cuts to state agencies such as the Department of Corrections, the Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Public Safety.

“We know the dollar amount of what could be cut, and that money has to come from somewhere,” Wilson said. “The state can’t magically make that money appear.”

Weaver said the state has already cut budgets for state agencies and programs “down to the bone,” and said the Legislature recently voted to direct 75 percent of the state’s Internet growth tax and 25 percent of the state’s general fund use tax to the general fund budget.

“The general fund is the problem, because there are no growth taxes going in there,” Weaver said, noting a set amount of tax money has gone into the general fund for many years.

Weaver said transferring money from the Alabama Trust Fund will “bridge the funding gap” until revenue from the two “growth taxes” starts building up in the general fund.