University braces for rough health-care reform impact

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On the heels of the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), hospitals across the country continue to be affected by a string of reimbursement cuts from the federal government as they try to balance the federal budget on the backs of the country’s health system.

University Health Care System, like other hospitals in our market, is not immune from these dramatic cuts, including the sequestration reductions that will take effect April 1.

As the CSRA’s only locally owned not-for-profit hospital, University Hospital provides access to care 24 hours a day, seven days a week for all who need and seek emergency care regardless of their ability to pay. We are a nonprofit organization, which means every dollar we are able to make above the expenses required to care for our patients is retained right here in Augusta to support our organization and the community for the future.

These excess funds allow us to reinvest in our facilities and equipment to ensure that we have the most advanced technology, progressive facilities and most highly skilled staff and physicians to care for patients in the CSRA.

WE HAVE A reputation of being financially solid because we have planned well and kept our focus on providing quality care to our patients and families. Do the upcoming automatic sequestration cuts have us worried about maintaining the level of care to which our patients have grown accustomed? Absolutely.

At University, the impact of health-care reform was estimated to be $27 million per year by 2019, assuming that the subsequent Medicaid expansion would occur in Georgia. Gov. Nathan Deal has taken the position that Georgia will not expand Medicaid. That means in Georgia, hospitals will have to take their share of the $155 billion in cuts to the nation’s hospitals with no upside revenue from expanding Medicaid to provide insurance to the uninsured.

During the fiscal cliff negotiations, the federal government took more money from the nation’s hospitals to solve a problem they created relative to payment rates for physicians. Essentially, they took $28 billion from hospitals to pay for avoiding a 28 percent reduction in physician payment rates that were supposed to take effect at the beginning of this year. The impact of this reduction on University Hospital is approximately $2 million per year over the next four years. All told, in 2013 we anticipate reimbursement from federal programs to decrease by $12.1 million as compared to reimbursement for the same book of business in 2012.

SEQUESTRATION WILL only add to this stripping of revenue from our hospital. We will see our Medicare reimbursement cut by 2 percent for our hospital, home care services, nursing homes, physicians and our hospice. Conservatively, that will amount to approximately $5 million on top of the $12.1 million already in place.

University is working very hard to improve the efficiency of the care we provide so that we can continue to be the trusted provider of high-quality care that we have delivered for almost 200 years. Like other hospitals, the continued layering of reimbursement reductions will be a huge challenge as we continue to dive into health-care reform.

While our budget for providing care is stretched razor-thin, our commitments will not change. University Hospital remains dedicated to setting and maintaining the standard for health care in the region. We cannot guarantee that our health-care delivery system as you know it today will not change, but we promise to always keep what is best for our patients and their families at the forefront, making changes as seamless as possible.

(The writer is president and chief executive officer of University Health Care System in Augusta.)

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deestafford
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deestafford 03/24/13 - 09:34 am
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The medical profession needs to contact the beloved AMA

who so strongly supported the Obamacare as it was being "discussed". Have the local medical professionals withdrawn their membership from their professional oganizations which supported Obamacare?

soapy_725
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soapy_725 03/24/13 - 11:08 am
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Never ever forget that Non Profit does not mean
Unpublished

that executives get very wealthy. Volunteerism is at the low end of the services. The organizers and managers have to be paid for their charitable exercises. Non Profit does not mean what it did fifty years ago. That is when welfare was help to the helpless. Today, Non Profit is another term for a private-government sharing of services involving tax dollars to those who "manage the money" first and then to those deemed to be in need. First come the frame work and then charity.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 03/24/13 - 12:33 pm
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Waste, Fraud, Corruption, Abuse

Don't worry, Mr. Davis. Our president promised that Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements will come from rooting out waste, fraud, corruption and abuse within those government agencies and within the medical industry. No one will feel any pain. Obamacare for all, and to all a good night!

thoughtful7
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thoughtful7 03/24/13 - 03:31 pm
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"Gov. Nathan Deal has taken

"Gov. Nathan Deal has taken the position that Georgia will not expand Medicaid. That means in Georgia, hospitals will have to take their share of the $155 billion in cuts to the nation’s hospitals with no upside revenue from expanding Medicaid to provide insurance to the uninsured."

Expansion of Medicaid, and the federal dollars it would bring to our state's economy, was one of the basic elements of the ACA. When Nathan Deal refused this benefit to the poorest people in our state, he not only condemned them to suffer needlessly, he also plunged our state's hospitals into a financial crisis.

And the Republicans in the House have taken not only their own "Party of No" to the edge of the fiscal cliff, they've taken the country there, too. They destroyed the Clinton budget surplus (remember that -- after the Bush years?) brought us The Great Recession, and seemed determined to destroy even the feeble economic recovery we've had so far.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 03/24/13 - 07:51 pm
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Disappearing Dollars

Sorry, thoughtful, but those "federal dollars" are the crack cocaine that gets one hooked. The law makes those Medicaid expansion federal dollars available for only three years. After that, the states must absorb the whole cost of the expansion. It's time not for expansion of benefits, but rather it's time for fewer benefits and more personal responsibility.

MarinerMan
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MarinerMan 03/25/13 - 01:42 pm
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@Thoughtful7
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The president could've not made so many campaign trips over the past several months, kept his posterior in Washington, and the sequestration might've been avoided by an agreement. And the president is squarely responsible for the 16.7 Trillion dollar deficit that our great grandchildren will be stuck paying. Failed stimulus dollars that only his supporters profited from.

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