$18m? $54m? What does it mean?

John Taylor: May 24, 20070 Comments

When talk turns to millions (and billions) of dollars, I always look for something real to wrap my arms around to get context.

Take for example, $18 million a year -- or $54 million over three years. Those are the amounts making news lately in terms of special federal Medi-Cal money for the needy that Community Medical Centers is eligible for, depending on decisions in Fresno County government.

I scouted the Web for some comparable amounts and what they equate to:

  • $18 million -- It's about half of what Gov. Schwarzenegger proposed in his 2007/8 budget to get more kids enrolled in Medi-Cal and the Healthy Families programs. It's what the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation gave a Boston researcher to expedite his efforts to create an AIDS vaccine. And it would also buy you about four M1A1 Abrams tanks, the main combat tank of the U.S. Army.

  • $54 million -- It's about 10% of the value of Fresno County's 2006 grape production. It's slightly more than the record-setting donation that the University of California, San Francisco, received from the Atlantic Philanthropies to construct a cardiovascular research center of the university's Mission Bay campus. It's slightly more than President Clinton earmarked for Alzheimer's research in 2000, and it's roughly the amount that Congress cut in 2004 that was intended to build a national health data exchange.

  • $54 million -- is a little more than the California Endowment pledged in 2001 toward a five-year effort to improve health care for California farm workers. It's a little more than the Dell Foundation gave the University of Texas system toward creating a pediatric health research center. It's about the same as the 2007 payroll of the Colorado Rockies baseball team, and it's a little less than what it costs to buy a F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet jet fighter plane.

And, since it now costs about $1.5 million to build a new hospital bed (with quake safety and other regs factored in), $54 million would get you about 36 new inpatient beds.

Lastly, $54 million -- the three-year total of special Medi-Cal funding that Community could use to better serve the Valley's needy -- is about 44% of the $124 million in charity care costs that Community provided last year alone.