News

Health care on the chopping block

by MARK ST.J. COUHIG
Sequim Gazette

As Washington’s legislators cut and slash at the overburdened state budget, Olympic Medical Center CEO Eric Lewis is fighting to defend the funding for several important programs. Priority one: save the $1.9 million the hospital receives annually through the Medicaid Certified Public Expenditure program.
Medicaid Expenditure pays for Medicaid services provided to the medical center’s inpatients. Inpatients are those who spend one or more nights in the hospital.

OMC Assistant Administrator Rhonda Curry admits the hospital faces a big challenge. With 60 percent of the state budget protected and massive shortfalls in revenue, the “cuts have to come from somewhere,” she said. Health care is a likely victim. The Medicaid expenditure program, provided to public district hospitals across the state, is “absolutely on the chopping block.”

Curry said the money is the top priority because if the funding is lost, “We don’t stop caring for the patients. It will just be devastating to our bottom line.”

Lewis already has met with State Sen. Jim Hargrove and soon will sit down with Reps. Steve Tharinger and Kevin Van De Wege to make his case for the funding.

Curry said the local solons “have been very supportive,” but she admits they are being pulled in a dozen different directions, with every group hoping to keep their funding. Curry said it’s OMC’s responsibility to ensure its case is well and forcefully made.

More cuts?
Three other important health care programs also are on the chopping block. The loss of any would curtail the public’s access to health care, Lewis said.

The programs, Basic Heath Plan, Disability Lifeline and Rural Health Clinics, all play an important role in OMC’s operations. Curry said early discussions by the Legislature called for “100 percent cuts” — shutting down the programs altogether — but in more recent days the Legislature has discussed retaining some funding.

Basic Health contracts with health plans across Washington to provide reduced-cost health care coverage to qualified residents.

Disability Lifeline provides cash and medical benefits for those who are physically or mentally disabled.
The Rural Health Clinics program was established to provide outpatient primary care in underserved rural areas.

To aid in that effort, designated clinics are eligible for enhanced Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement.
In Clallam County alone there are 11 designated Rural Health Clinics.

 

 

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