The Union Recorder

November 27, 2012

ORMC CEO gives state of healthcare

Kyle Collins
The Union-Recorder

MILLEDGEVILLE — The Milledgeville-Baldwin County Chamber of Commerce Eggs & Issues series continued Tuesday morning at Crockett's Family Cafeteria. Oconee Regional Medical Center CEO Jean Aycock spoke about the local and national challenges affecting healthcare.

Recent expenses related to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) have hit ORMC as well as others nationwide. The ACA will cut $716 billion from the healthcare system over the next 10 years. A third of that reduction comes out of hospital reimbursement rates.

Switching from paper to electronic records creates a patient portal for accessing a wide variety of individual medical history. That upgrade along with Internal Revenue Service required community health needs assessments all come out of the ORMC budget.

All together the ACA adds nearly 160 additional regulatory boards, commissions and programs. Aycock said no one really knows what the bill brings.

Though ORMC is a 501(c) Non-Profit, the hospital still needs to make money to put back into personnel, benefits and expensive technology.

Payment structures are changing as well. There will still be some fee for service, but the government is moving towards more bundled payments.

Starting with the new fiscal year this October, hospital payment is now determined by 70 percent quality indicators and 30 percent patient perception about care. The perception comes from HealthStream phone surveys. There are penalties for low performers and patient readmission within 30 days.

ORMC loses $100,000 yearly on a Medicaid funding program. Georgia hospitals face $500 million worth of reductions, while the state has one of the highest uninsured rates nationally at 20 percent.

No patient is turned down until a medical exam occurs. The Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) governs the emergency room policy.  EMTALA requires most hospitals to provide an examination and needed stabilizing treatment, without consideration of insurance coverage or ability to pay, to a patient's perceived emergency medical condition.

ORMC requested an ad valorem tax pledge of 3-mills from the Baldwin County Commissioners to help provide that indigent care for the community. The hospital got the go ahead to shop out to lenders.

When terms are chosen to help reduce $25 million bond debt, the hospital and county will hash out the best deal before entering into an intergovernmental agreement. The pledge will help ORMC save an estimated $500,000 per year.

As part of the agreement, the hospital agrees to maintain appropriate cash on hand so the county will never have to actually levy the tax.

Last year, ORMC was recognized for excellence in emergency medicine, critical care and pulmonary care. The regional facility's care ranks in the top 18 percent nationwide.

Aycock said ORMC works to stabilize physician availability, local quality and keep up bed side care hours.

The hospital saved over $5.5 million in operational costs last year, and is on the way to even footing.