AUSTIN, Texas — A delegation of 43 top leaders and community supporters of Methodist Health System traveled to Austin on Feb. 8 for crucial discussions with state legislators regarding fund support for Medicaid to health care organizations.

In an intense 13-hour trip, the group divided into five teams led by Methodist Health System CEO and President Dr. Stephen L. Mansfield and four campus presidents.

Each team met with different members of the House and Senate, including all those who represent areas served by Methodist facilities.

The full group of civic and hospital also received a legislative update from the president and SVP of legislative affairs of the Texas Hospital Association and Sen. Royce West before beginning their visits with 15 representatives/aides, six senators/aides, the Health and Human Services aide for the speaker of the House and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst.

Six state representatives also participated in an evening reception sponsored by Methodist at THA headquarters.

“Given that Medicare and Medicaid as federal and state administered programs are substantial payer relationships for hospitals and physicians, it is vitally important that hospital and health system boards and executives be involved in providing feedback to legislators about the impact of proposed changes to either of those programs,” Mansfield said. “Given that per THA statistics, Texas Medicaid currently reimburses only about 60 cents on the dollar of hospital costs, further reduction in Medicaid reimbursement can only further compromise the level of care available for those with Medicaid as well as the services available from the state’s safety net hospitals like Methodist.”

Discussions with legislators emphasized (1) working to insure that federal matching dollars set aside for Texas hospitals and physicians in Washington were not left unclaimed when they are desperately needed here, to support North Texas’ largest safety net hospitals recoup some of their Medicaid losses; and (2) consideration of tapping some of the state’s “rainy day fund” to mitigate the size of the state budget deficit.

“Even if we do all of that, the state’s hospitals and physicians will still have to do some serious belt-tightening in order to keep the Medicaid program viable but we at Methodist will step up and do our part,” Mansfield said.

“Ultimately, we have to evolve the Medicaid program to one that is more prevention and wellness focused as opposed to treatment focused, but that takes time. During the transition from here to there, our state’s safety net hospitals need our legislators to do all they can to support Medicaid financing. That was our message in Austin and it was one that seemed to be generally well-received,” he added.

Methodist leaders and advocates participating in the trip included senior executive management, vice presidents and staff, board members and community leaders who visited the Capitol to talk about how proposed state Medicaid funding cuts would adversely affect Methodist and others crucial to health care safety networks for Texans. THA President Dan Stultz indicated that the Methodist group made very effective presentations to state lawmakers facing critical challenges on budget cut issues.

Legislators visited included Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, Speaker of the House Joe Strauss, Sen. John Carona, Rep. Jim Pitts (who serves as House Appropriations Committee chairman), Sen. Wendy Davis, Rep. Barbara Nash, Rep. Rodney Anderson, Rep. Bill Zedler, Sen. Royce West, Rep. Roberto Alonzo, Rep. Rafael Anchia, Rep. Eric Johnson (Appropriations Committee member), Sen. Bob Duell, Rep. Yvonne Davis, Rep. Helen Giddings, Rep. Barbara Mallory-Caraway, Sen. Florence Shapiro, Rep. Angie Button, Rep. Jim Jackson, Rep. Jerry Madden and Rep. Stefani Carter.