Saturday, February 17, 2007

"Sick Tax" Spin: Doyle vs. Reality, Part I

So long as reality doesn't encumber your views, DarthDoyle's propaganda sounds great: soak the rich, help the poor.

Gov. Jim Doyle's proposal to increase federal funding for state health programs through a tax on hospitals would shift some of the cost of providing care for the poor and the uninsured to many of the state's most profitable hospitals.

Good, eh? Those filthy-rich Mequon/Brookfield residents--and those thieving profit-numbers!! My land!! They have to give it up for the greater good!!

Except that the JSOnline's charts couldn't mask reality.

Notice that the hospitals are divided into groups by ownership--Wheaton, Aurora, Columbia/St Mary's. Then notice that Wheaton owns Elmbrook (profitable), St Joe's, and St. Francis (both marginally profitable.)

You think, maybe, that Elmbrook is effectively subsidizing the other two so that the overall Milwaukee-area profit picture is acceptable?

Or take Columbia/St Mary's, which owns a Mequon facility (profitable), St Mary's (not too profitable) and Columbia (also not too profitable.) Same story.

It's similar (but less pronounced) at Aurora. Of course, Aurora spends far more on advertising than anyone except politicians seeking re-election by lying about "No Tax Increases"--and the charts mysteriously don't mention Aurora's out-State facilities.

When St Joseph modernizes or adds to its facilities, the lenders don't look at St. Joseph's P&L; they look at WHEATON's P&L and lend the money based on Wheaton's overall profitability--derived largely from Elmbrook's profitability. Thus, Wheaton (just like Aurora and StMary/Columbia) are already bolstering their less-profitable branches with money gained in the high-profit locations.


The Doyle spinners tell reporters this, ah, story:

The governor has proposed using some - though not all - of the revenue to pay hospitals more to care for people in state health programs such as Medicaid and BadgerCare.

Those programs pay hospitals and doctors far less than commercial health plans. The number of patients in state health programs might be the single biggest factor in how much money a hospital makes or loses.

So what? A tax is a tax. Patients and their insurers will still pay the tax, which will raise the "cost of health-care." Doyle also claims that the Feds will send more money, offsetting the Sick Tax. But that's speculation on his part at this time.

Perhaps the clearest view of DarthDoyle is expressed here:

George Quinn, senior vice president of the association, noted that not all of the money from Doyle's proposed tobacco and hospital taxes would be used for health care programs.

...The hospital association and some hospitals worry that even more of the money from the proposed tax could be diverted in future years.

"I have zero faith it will stay with us," said Leo Brideau, chief executive of Columbia St. Mary's.

Mr. Brideau is not likely to be a Doyle cabinet appointee.

When DarthDoyle has to come out with deceits and spin like this, you know he's desperate. He's desperately hoping that the Feds will actually pay more money. He's desperately hoping that the experience in Connecticut (which s***canned a similar scam--it failed) will not become part of a JS story. And he's desperately hoping that the "soak the rich" message overcomes the realities in the hospital business.

Finally, he's desperately hoping that Leo Brideau never talks to a JS reporter again.

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