By WVUA 23 Web Writer Kevin McPartland

As the state faces potential cuts in Medicaid funding, hospital administrators are beginning to look at how the cuts will affect the DCH Health System.

After a battle between Gov. Robert Bentley and state legislators, the legislature forced a budget into law earlier this month.

The budget, which was passed without the governor’s signature after a failed veto attempt, is $85 million short of what the governor and Medicaid predicted the state would need to fund the program.

Now, DCH is predicted to take an indirect hit from the cuts in funding.

DCH Corporate Director for Marketing and Communication Brad Fisher said  the cuts will have a deeper, more immediate impact on rural hospitals, who depend heavily on funds from Medicaid to operate.

Hospitals in cities like Tuscaloosa rely less on the program’s funding (DCH receives 15 percent of their income from Medicaid), but that does not mean cuts won’t hurt. Rural hospitals have the potential to go under, leaving city hospitals to take up the slack.

“The changes in Medicaid could put (rural hospitals) out of business,” Fisher said. “As they go out of business, then the larger hospitals that have a smaller percentage of medicaid will then get a larger percentage of medicaid, and a larger percentage of no pay.”

DCH does not have the space available to handle this potential influx of new patients, and there will be a considerable new financial burden from the increase in Medicaid-dependent patients.

State lawmakers are planning to hold a series of hearings to discuss Medicaid this term.

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