By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News
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“We really are struggling at current levels, and it really threatens the services if we can't afford them,” CEO Eric Lewis told commissioners Wednesday.
The 80-bed Port Angeles hospital is one of just four hospitals in the state designated as a “sole community hospital.”
Those hospitals are reimbursed by Medicare through the state at a fixed rate of 55 percent of costs.
“That means as a hospital, we spend a dollar, and we get 55 cents back from Medicaid. It's hard to make that up on volume,” Lewis said.
A bill that would up that reimbursement to sole community hospitals to 70 percent of costs passed the state Senate on Feb. 14, and its companion bill is being considered in the House, where Lewis said it needs “serious work” to get passed.
The bill is co-sponsored by 24th District Reps. Steve Tharinger, D-Dungeness, and Kevin Van De Wege, D-Sequim, but Lewis called for a push of emails, letters and phone calls to other leaders in the House, particularly Rep. Eileen Cody, D-West Seattle, who chairs the House Health Care and Wellness Committee.
“We need her to move our bill,” Lewis said.
Changing the reimbursement rate would add roughly $1 million to the dwindling revenue of OMC, Lewis said.
The budget is further drained, Lewis said, by $3.5 million of Medicare cuts from the federal level that will hit the hospital this year.
The four sole community hospitals in the state, those rural health care centers with more than 25 beds, are OMC, Grays Harbor Community Hospital, Providence Centralia and Samaritan Healthcare in Moses Lake.
However, with the Port Angeles and Grays Harbor hospitals both in the same legislative district, Lewis said, only six representatives have active interests in the bill.
The Senate bill excludes changing Grays Harbor's reimbursement rate, limiting the increase to public hospitals. Grays Harbor Community Hospital is run by a private nonprofit governing board.
The gap between costs and Medicare/Medicaid reimbursements is made up by charging more to patients with commercial insurance, Lewis said.
He added that 76 percent of OMC patients are insured through Medicare or Medicaid, while less than 20 percent use commercial insurance.
“People with commercial insurance pay more than cost because we have to balance our budget,” Lewis said.
“If Medicare and Medicaid can pay their fair share, then we could reduce the cost to commercial insurance.”
Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at email@example.com.