At a Legislative Forum hosted by Northern Montana Hospital last week, the Association of Montana Health Care Providers presented vital information about the current and future state of health care in Montana.
Rep. Wendy Warburton, R-Havre, and candidates Rowlie Hutton, Kris Hansen, and Dana Sapp Seidel were present to hear facts, figures and comments from John Flink, MHA lobbyist, and Dave Henry, president and CEO of Northern Montana Health Care.
“We are glad these politicians attended, and it shows they care about the health of the people in our community and the health of our hospital,” said Henry.
A graph citing MHA data from 1997 to 2009 shows charity care and bad debt owed to hospitals are now upward of $140 million in the state. Medicare and Medicaid already reimburse providers less than their costs for treating beneficiaries, so further cuts of reimbursement to hospitals and nursing homes could be disastrous, the officials said.
“The Health Care reform law is projected to reduce Medicare payments by $143 million over 10 years with additional reductions planned for Medicaid payments. Revenue from increased coverage is projected to make up for these cuts — but there is no guarantee this will be achieved,” said Flink, who also reported that revenue reductions possible during the 2011 Legislature include proposed worker compensation changes that could reduce payments to hospitals and doctors by $152 million a year.
The beneficiaries of Medicaid are low-income families, disabled people, and the elderly. For every 33 cents in state money spent on Medicaid, the federal government adds 67 cents.
“A Hospital Utilization Fee is paid to the government by hospitals for each patient-day regardless of whether the patient is able to pay for their care or not,” said Henry. “If the HUF is cut, it will result in the cutting of services for departments in the hospital, such as the Dialysis Unit and the Emergency Department, which are subsidized by other hospital departments with patient care dollars.”
Northern Montana Hospital provides charity care to patients who qualify and will fill out the paperwork. In this last fiscal year beginning July 2009 and extending through June 2010, NMH provided 2,287 people with charity care, along the Hi-Line, in amounts upward of $700,000 a year.