Wooster Community Hospital board of governorsState Medicaid expansion, funding discussed [Daily Record, The (Wooster, OH)]
(Daily Record, The (Wooster, OH) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) WOOSTER -- Discussion during Wednesday's board of governors meeting turned to Medicaid expansion in the state of Ohio, while trying to stay out of politics.
Wooster Community Hospital CEO Bill Sheron first broached the subject.
"Hospitals in Ohio are in an interesting dilemma," Sheron said, as he explained the state's legislature has not approved Medicaid expansion. But the promise made to hospitals during debate on the Affordable Care Act was that when coverage was expanded to cover the previously uninsured, it would help cover costs and give some payment to hospitals.
Currently, the hospital does not see payment for those who can't pay for it.
As an example, the hospital's financial statement for July 2013 showed a total of $484,940 was written off as bad debt (essentially delinquent payers, which is then sent to collections).
And charity care last month totaled $436,397, which accounts for patients who cannot afford to pay and meet criteria based on the federal poverty levels.
Combined bad debt and charity care (both patient care written off) equaled an estimated 6.25 percent of the hospital's gross patient revenue in the month.
"We care for people who can't afford it," Sheron said.
"That's our mission," added Mayor Bob Breneman.
Sheron said with Medicaid expansion, not only Wooster, but countless other hospitals would then see some funding to cover patients who previously couldn't pay for services.
Sheron added that the Ohio Hospital Association has discussed this issue and may try to get the issue put to the ballot in 2014 as the overall funding for hospitals has "put a lot of hospitals in difficult situations ... (Medicaid expansion) has a direct impact on this hospital and all hospitals going forward," Sheron said.
Discussion on Medicaid expansion also dove-tailed into overall concern about health insurance moving forward.
The hospital has reported each month in 2013 seeing lower volumes than 2012, but still solid numbers.
Sheron and QHR representative Mike Halstead noted changes to insurance plans, and other factors, may be leading to more people standing on the sidelines.
Sheron said utilization is down across the board, especially on the inpatient side. "But that doesn't mean we're not busy," he said.
He added that some insurance plans, which are raising deductibles to cover their costs, may be hampering people from undertaking non- essential medical services, and therefore affecting the hospital's numbers.
The flip side to plans switching to higher deductibles, he said, can lead to patients not able to cover those initial costs and turn into bad debt even when they have insurance.
"It's hard to understand what's underlying all of this," Sheron noted.
Halstead added that uncertainty regarding "Obamacare" and patients awaiting the opening of health insurance exchanges may also be keeping people on the sidelines.
He told the board volumes are down across the nation though, and not just at Wooster.
But a company which does futures work for QHR anticipates a resurgence in 2014, Halstead told the board, as people who get insurance through the exchanges are expected to begin returning to the market for care.
Reporter Steve Huszai can be reached at 330-287-1645 or firstname.lastname@example.org. He is @GeneralSmithie on Twitter.
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