umc-sickerAs you are probably aware by now the local community hospital better known as the University Medical Center was recently assessed Medicare penalties for allowing patients to get sick while under their care. The local paper, as usual, did not give you the necessary context to go along with the announcement.

Under the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, hospitals that the federal government finds as having too many patients infected with infections while under the care of the hospital get their Medicare payments reduced this fiscal year. UMC’s Medicare payments have been reduced by one percent. The federal fiscal year started on October 1, 2014. UMC is one of the 724 hospitals penalized this fiscal year.

There are three important things to notice that have been conveniently ignored by Veronica Escobar and cohorts as well as glossed over by the local media.

The first is that El Paso politicians are notorious for arguing that El Paso does not get its fair share of federal and state monies. At the same time, when it comes time to float taxpayer funded ideas like the El Paso Children’s Hospital the notion is that the monies will come from federal and state monies rather than the community. Those advocating for the El Paso Children’s Hospital argued that the proximity to the border would bring in federal dollars to meet the costs.

As a matter fact, Veronica Escobar’s argument for the UMC clinics was that the funds would come from federal sources. Now we know that the El Paso Children’s Hospital is in serious financial trouble because the promised federal monies never materialized. When given the opportunity for the blame game, Veronica Escobar, as well as cohorts, like to blame the Republican-controlled state legislature for the lack of federal funds. You will notice this as the next state legislature gets into session and the local delegates will decry the lack of Medicare funds because of the Republicans.

This leads us into the next issue with UMC’s latest debacle, the Obamacare monies that the El Paso politicians embraced as much needed for the underserved and underinsured residents of the city. Now that Obamacare is doing what it is supposed to be doing the residents of El Paso are slowly finding out that Obamacare isn’t trickling in money to fund the utopian public agenda but rather it is holding the mediocre accountable resulting in fines for UMC.

On one hand, Veronica Escobar and cohorts argue Obamacare is the panacea for all that ails El Paso, if only the Republicans would allow it, while at the same time that panacea was directly the major reason that the children’s hospital is in the crisis that it is in today. Federal funding changed with the advent of Obamacare. Of course, Escobar and cohorts are still embarking on spending money in building clinics that no one knows how the changing payment formulas will affect them. As a matter of fact, UMC is currently authorized to borrow money on future tax revenues and presumably is already doing so. But, it doesn’t matter because the utopian public policy agenda will be funded by the local taxpayers once the reality sets in.

Finally, as if none of that was bad enough, consider that UMC must have known about the Medicare fines sometime in August at the latest. Yet with all of the controversy, surrounding the bonuses given to Jim Valenti no one at the hospital has discussed this with the community. Of course, that would require honesty in public officials and El Paso obviously lacks this quality. Far worse is that Jim Valenti was given a bonus for his quality oversight of the hospital and yet the hospital is fined by the federal government for allowing patients to get sick while under their care.

I guess the UMC board feels that quality services include making patients sicker than better. This is the same board that paid to settle the case of the poor woman that was sexually violated by hospital personnel because incompetence is rampant from the top to the bottom that no one knew that it is wrong to forcefully probe a woman just because someone in a badge asked them to do it.

For El Paso’s taxpayers the troubles are just getting worse.

The same underlining problem of Obamacare still exists and yet Veronica Escobar is still intent on building clinics that are based on the notion that the federal funds will be there to fund the operations. The underlining issue of the El Paso Children’s Hospital still exists in that the presumed federal funds are nonexistent and yet the negotiations continue, in secret, to save a hospital that has never had a realistic funding mechanism. Obviously, the reasons for the secrecy is to allow the manipulation to continue to fund it through the local taxpayers.

But hey, Jim Valenti still gets his bonus although patients in his hospital get sicker and federal funds continue to diminish although Veronica Escobar still thinks the feds will step in and pay for her public policy agenda. It is, El Paso after all.

Martin Paredes

Martín Paredes is a Mexican immigrant who built his business on the U.S.-Mexican border. As an immigrant, Martín brings the perspective of someone who sees México as a native through the experience...

One reply on “UMC Medicare Penalties”

  1. Do you think Jim Valenti was invited to the PRIVATE swearing in ceremony for our re-elected PUBLIC County Judge? Maybe he sat between Woody and Paul and they all toasted and laughed at the crazies outside who were kept out of the party but are forced to pay for it all.

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