The highly publicized financial crisis at Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center (NFMMC), as well as the loan request by two Niagara County Legislators to help bail out the facility, exposes what is a massive contradiction in health care.
In case you missed it, Niagara Falls Democrats Dennis Virtuoso and Renae Kimble plan to ask the Niagara County Legislature to loan NFMMC $3.5 million from county coffers to bail out the hospital from its current financial woes. The financial crunch at NFMMC stems from, according to the hospital’s President and CEO, Joseph Ruffolo, the high level of uncompensated care provided by the health care facility to uninsured patients and the way the county processes Medicaid applications.
The contradiction which this situation exposes is this: For years, we have heard one County Legislator after another talk about the massive Medicaid burden on the county. Former Legislator Lee Simonson was on the Medicaid expense bandwagon 20 years ago. When you look at the single biggest expense that Niagara County faces, Medicaid at about $41 million, the argument seems to hold water. But what about local hospitals, like NFMMC, that are completely reliant on Medicaid to exist? That is the double-edged sword of Medicaid. Without proper Medicaid reimbursement, these hospitals will close, or at least cut services. Meanwhile, the taxpayers of this county must continue to shoulder the burden of a massive Medicaid bill.
On a recent trip to Lockport Memorial Hospital, I happened to ask the woman who takes the preliminary information in the Emergency Room what percentage of ER patients are on Medicaid. Her response? 80%. Eighty percent of LMH's ER patients are on Medicaid!!! That, to me, was a stunning discovery. Another reinforcement of the contradiction of Medicaid. They need Medicaid to survive, and we keep hearing about the skyrocketing costs of Medicaid.
Ruffalo stated that this is a county problem. Now, I don't claim to have any statistics related to the demographics of NFMMC, but to me, this is not a county issue, it's a Niagara Falls issue. I would venture that a minimum of 90% of patients are from that city. Another 8-9% may be tourists visiting the area.
So the question beckons: Why are two county legislators looking for the county to bail them out? Why not look to the state delegation representing Niagara Falls? Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte has been excruciatingly silent through this ordeal. Where is Antoine Thompson? Could someone please remind him that he represents Niagara Falls? Oh, maybe someone could send him a map as well.
As we know, the party in power has the final say. As our local periodicals have pointed out, Virtuoso and Kimble are in the minority in the County Leg. But the Dems have Dem Guv. Spitzer, Dem Sen. Thompson, Dem Ass. DelMonte and Dem Mayor Dyster. How could the local state delegation NOT be able to come up with the cash for NFMMC? Are these local state representatives that impotent or is it just easier to go ask the county?
I for one do not want one more dime of my taxes going to subsidize this mismanaged facility. Run your facility within the guidelines that every other business works within or close your doors.