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Is a hospital tax levy increase coming?

The medical center needs a transfusion.

Facing a dire financial situation, Olympic Medical Center’s board of commissioners is considering increasing the hospital district’s tax levy. The board, according to president James Cammack, has yet to discuss exactly how large the increase would be.

According to Cammack, much of the unhealthy financial situation comes from a number of recent building projects.

“We’ve taken on a lot of building in Sequim,” Cammack said, adding that the hospital also remodeled its cafeteria and bought the former Virginia Mason primary care clinic for $1.8 million.

“These all take money, but they needed to be done,” Cammack said.

According to a presentation by CEO Eric Lewis earlier this year, it’s not just the new facilities and higher capital costs that have the hospital seeing red. There’s the cost of retaining physicians, low inpatient volumes and that there are, according to Lewis, approximately 8,000 uninsured men and women in the hospital’s service area.

Assistant administrator Rhonda Curry also points out that the hospital has to compete with for-profit businesses for revenue-rich services such as imaging and cardiology.

“We’re asking ourselves where can we grow our revenue,” Curry said.

The medical center also is suffering because of the state of national health care.

The government insures 70 percent of all Olympic Medical Center patients and programs such as Medicare reimburse the hospital at rates that are significantly less than the cost of the hospital services or inflation.

The bottom line, Cammack said, is that the hospital isn’t breaking even.

To improve its financial situation, OMC is cracking down on costs, more aggressively going after grants and going after Medicare. During an April 2 meeting, the board approved undergoing a Medicare Cost Report for the hospital.

The report, done by an outside firm, would analyze whether recent low volume at the hospital is due to circumstances beyond its control and if a case might be made against Medicare to retrieve lost funding.

Olympic Medical Center also is entertaining the levy.

In 2007 the hospital’s regular levy rate was about 11 cents per $1,000 valuation. It’s higher than Jefferson County, which has a rate of 9.9 cents per $1,000 valuation but Jefferson was able to bring in an additional $931,863 due to bonds and special levies on top of its regular tax revenues. OMC has no bonds or special levies.

Curry said the tax levy has not been increased in anyone’s recorded memories.

According to Cammack, once the board has met and agreed to a percentage increase, which he hopes will take place later this month, they will go into the community to publicize the measure, which would be subject to a public vote.

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