Pillen’s line-item vetoes raise questions for rural health care

LINCOLN, Neb. (COLOGNE) – Gov. Jim Pillen said the $140 million cut from the state budget by sector vetoes is too much spending, but many of the hardest-hit organizations believe essential services rely on the funds.

55% of Nebraska hospitals are currently in the red, facing double the cost of equipment and labor.

“As far as the workforce and cost growth issues go, this is right up there with some of the toughest challenges that we’ve really faced,” said Jim Ulrich, CEO of York General Hospital.

That’s why, after Pillen’s sweeping veto, some organizations and health care providers are sounding the alarm.

“Hospitals can close,” said Jeremy Nordquist, president of the Nebraska Hospital Association. “Of course services can be stopped. and so we need to make sure we pay enough to keep hospital services in rural Nebraska. “

Health care professionals focus on veto over Medicaid reimbursement rate. Pillen wants to raise it 3 percent next year, but keep it the same the year after, meaning $15 million in state and $30 million in federal funding won’t be available to state providers.

“The mandates brought about by the pandemic have increased our health care costs,” Pillen said Thursday. “We need to get back to normal quickly and we need to run our hospitals more efficiently. More money won’t solve the problem.”

But margins for the minority of hospitals that stay out of the red are often paper thin. This is at York General Hospital.

“All of our dollars that we put on the bottom line will be reinvested back into our organization to make the necessary improvements and pay for the wage increases that are in high demand in our labor market today,” Ulrich said.

Ulrich said the 3% increase next year was a deal that didn’t go far enough. Now, at the same price, then, he fears, General York will have to tap into his reserve fund, or think of reducing some of the services.

The Nebraska Hospital Association said it is working to get state senators to override the veto.

The vote could take place as early as Wednesday or next Thursday, requiring the support of 30 senators.

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