Medicaid peril

Letters to the editor
Huntsville Times, Thursday Feb. 17, 2011

Thank you for Monday's editorial on Medicaid by Mike Hollis. As he mentions, Medicaid pays for more than half of Alabama births and 40 percent of child healthcare. But that funding affects every single one of us, no matter what insurance we have. If an obstetrician lost funding for half her deliveries, would she stay here? If she left, her non-Medicaid pregnant patients would also lose their obstetrician.

This is exactly what happened recently to some North Alabama hospital maternity wards. Obstetricians couldn't afford to maintain privileges at those hospitals, because they had to deliver too many babies for uninsured women. Without doctors, the maternity wards closed, so all women in those communities now have to drive elsewhere to have their babies.

Reducing Medicaid funding would put every pregnant woman and newborn in our state at risk. It doesn't matter how much money you can pay your doctor if that doctor is not around. The same thing could happen to children now able to get care from excellent pediatric subspecialists. Pediatric surgeons, cardiologists, cancer specialists and others rely on 40 percent or more of their income being paid by Medicaid. Without that money, they may not be able to continue caring for children with private insurance either.

So let's talk "personal responsibility." The only way to preserve our own access to quality healthcare is to provide adequate health insurance to everyone else. Those who can't support that concept out of compassion can do it out of pure self-interest.

Pippa C. Abston, MD, PhD
Huntsville, Al.