By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News
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Hospital CEO Eric Lewis, Commissioner Jean Hordyk and other OMC officials were on hand for the signing of the “sole community hospital" legislation in Olympia on Wednesday.
The bill — co-sponsored by state Sen. Jim Hargrove, D-Hoquiam, and backed by Sequim House Democrats Steve Tharinger and Kevin Van De Wege — boosts Medicaid reimbursement for outpatient services from 55 percent to 70 percent of cost.
$1 million yearly hike
That translates to a $1 million annual increase to OMC's bottom line.
“This is so important for sustaining the pathway of remaining an independent hospital in this community,” said Dr. Scott Kennedy, chief medical officer, at the OMC commissioners meeting Wednesday night.
The law protects mid-sized rural hospitals that are too large to qualify for the 101 percent Medicaid reimbursement rate enjoyed by critical access facilities, such as Jefferson Healthcare and Forks Community Hospital, which have 25 beds or fewer.
OMC is now the state's only sole community hospital, with 80 beds, a Level 3 trauma center and public status.
Private nonprofit Grays Harbor Community Hospital in Aberdeen would earn sole community status if it becomes public, as would Providence Centralia and Samaritan Healthcare in Moses Lake.
Hordyk returned from the governor's signing ceremony in time to brief her fellow commissioners.
“We were so proud to be down there,” she said.
“We had union members also join us, and Sen. Hargrove, and then two members from Grays Harbor [Community Hospital] were also there.”
Hordyk and Kennedy credited Lewis for his lobbying efforts to help get the bill passed.
“I think [Inslee] was surprised to see so many of us there from this area,” Hordyk added.
Hargrove, Tharinger and Van De Wege each represent the 24th Legislative District, which covers Clallam and Jefferson counties and part of Grays Harbor County.
For the long run
“I really think this bill is going to create much-needed financial stability for Olympic Medical Center. It is important that we do what we can to make sure it is operating here for the long run,” Hargrove said in a statement.
“Without this community hospital, our most vulnerable citizens would have nowhere to go.”
The Medicaid payment protection will help offset a $3.5 million cut that OMC faces this year in federal Medicare reimbursement.
About 76 percent of OMC patients are insured through Medicare or Medicaid, Lewis has said.
“By moving this legislation forward, we not only ensure our citizens will have access to a quality hospital, we also retain jobs,” Hargrove said.
“There are nearly 1,200 people working at Olympic Medical Center. These are good, middle-class wage jobs. We need to protect these people and keep them working.”
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.