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UMC expansion: Hear from arguments both sides

By Ashlie Rodriguez, Reporter
Published On: Apr 08 2013 03:26:44 PM CDT
Updated On: Aug 20 2013 10:23:46 AM CDT

El Paso County Judge discusses the proposed plan to open new health clinics in the area with taxpayer money.

EL PASO, Texas -

Private physicians are planning on making multiple presentations at Monday's county commissioners meeting, hoping to sway commissioners to vote against the University Medical Center expansion.

But Judge Veronica Escobar will be a tough sell. She sites state statistics that say 260,000 people in El Paso are uninsured. In 2012 alone, taxpayers picked up 48% of UMC's 56,000 emergency room patients.

"They end up in our emergency rooms so we pay for all that uninsured care at the highest possible cost," said Escobar.

But private doctors say they can help, and UMC can pay them to use their facilities to treat uninsured. They say four 50,000 sq.ft. clinics, at about $40 million each, are unnecessary and expensive.

"Why not use all the expertise in our area and come up with a private public solution," said Dr. Luis Urrea of the El Paso County Medical Society. "That hasn't occurred."

But Escobar doubts existing infrastructure can handle all the uninsured. Doctors though fear these clinics will be under-used and require more tax money to stay profitable.

"It's going to make your taxes go up," said private physician Dr. John Tune. "Not only that but this comes on top of the bond issue, the taxpayer hit from the city hall being demolished, Asarco being demolished for the triple a baseball team being built downtown. This is the reason cities go broke."

UMC denies the clinics will require additional tax dollars except to build them. And they need them built because of new federal funding requirements under the Affordable Care Act. These new requirements make private doctors suspicious that UMC is trying to grab insured patients as well as uninsured.

"This is coming from a fear of competition," Escobar said.

"I think it's not so much about competition," Urrea said. "Its about increasing taxes and it's also a level playing field."
 

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