A handful of private medical schools in Pennsylvania will lose millions in state funding under Gov. Tom Ridge's fiscal 1997 budget plan.
Last week, the governor proposed cutting state subsidies of private universities by 50% and phasing out the support over two years. Currently, the state provides $70 million to private medical and health professions schools.
"When we are hard pressed to fund state and state-related universities at the level we would like, it was simply not possible to defend a $70 million appropriation to a fraction of Pennsylvania's private universities," Ridge said.
News of the cutbacks caught many medical school officials off guard, and most still were attempting to assess the financial impact of the cuts.
Jefferson Medical College, which is part of Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, received almost $10 million from the state last year. That represents 1.4% of total university revenues. It supports educational programs by reducing the cost of tuition and allows Jefferson to participate in community-outreach programs, a spokeswoman said.
Funding cuts also would affect the merged Medical College of Pennsylvania and Hahnemann University School of Medicine, and the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.
The governor's budget also calls for eliminating Medical Assistance, or Medicaid, coverage for 133,000 "able-bodied adults," saving the state about $250 million. That amounts to a $380 million loss to medical providers when federal matching dollars are added.
Ridge said the state needs to tighten eligibility for benefits to rein in Medical Assistance spending, which has increased 134% in the past 10 years.
If those recipients lose eligibility, there will be fewer people with access to health insurance and "probably more uncompensated care," said Dave Myers, vice president for healthcare finance and research at the Hospital Association of Pennsylvania.
"It's going to be a major problem," said David Feinberg, administrator of the Urban Health Care Coalition of Pennsylvania, which represents urban hospitals.