OMC seeks levy lift on August ballot

Without an increase in the local hospital levy, Olympic Medical Center will likely have to look at making substantial cuts to services, according to CEO Darryl Wolfe.

For the first time since 2008, the Clallam County Public Hospital District No. 2 — the public hospital district that governs OMC — is seeking a levy increase projected to raise an additional $12 million in annual revenue.

The measure will be on the Aug. 6 ballot as Proposition 1.

Speaking during last week’s session of Coffee with Colleen, with Colleen McAleer of the Clallam County Economic Development Council, Wolfe said the levy would provide flexibility and allow the hospital to continue providing its current services.

“We are a public hospital district. Public hospitals, as I think most of you know, turn no one away,” Wolfe said. “If you’re uninsured, whether you can pay or not, we will see you and we will take you. That is our mission and we will continue to do that.”

Most of OMC’s patients, about 85%, are on some kind of government-provided healthcare such as Medicare or Medicaid, and those programs reimburse hospitals at lower rates than private insurance companies do.

About 62% of OMC’s patients are covered by Medicare, Wolfe said.

Joining the meeting on July 2 was Eric Lewis, CFO of the Washington State Hospital Association (and former OMC CEO), who said that OMC’s 62% of patients on Medicare was the highest in the state for non-critical access care hospitals. Most hospitals similar to OMC had roughly 30-40% of their patients on Medicare, Lewis said.

OMC has cut back roughly 100 full-time positions over the last 16 months, Wolfe said, and seeks to provides services that are needed by the community.

“We don’t pick services based on their economic viability necessarily, we pick them based on this is what the community needs and this is what we’re here to do,” Wolfe said.

The hospital lost $24 million in 2023, but is only projected to lose $1.2 million in 2024, Wolfe said, and the levy increase is meant to help the hospital sustain its current level of service.

“What a lot of facilities across our state have done, unfortunately, with difficult financial times is the first thing that they seem to close is labor and delivery,” Wolfe said. “It’s not a profitable thing, but it’s a necessary thing. With 400 deliveries (last year) here, I don’t have that option.”

The hospital district’s current levy rate is approximately $0.37 per $1,000 of assessed property value and a yes vote on Prop. 1 will raise the tax to $0.75 per $1,000.

The information page about Prop. 1 on OMC’s website states that a property with an assessed value of $300,000 will see a monthly increase of $11 per month or $132 per year.

Wolfe and others have been lobbying the state and federal governments to increase the amount hospitals are reimbursed for Medicare services; currently, Medicare only reimburses $0.80 for every dollar spent on care, meaning the provision of services to those patients costs the hospital money.

Medicare reimburses rural critical access care hospitals at a higher rate, but those hospitals are limited to roughly 25 beds; OMC has 67 beds.

On a recent trip to Washington, D.C., Wolfe met with the state’s Congressional delegation, whom he said supported the idea but noted the climate in the nation’s capitol was difficult.

“It’s a tough time to get a lot of things done back there, but we’re going to try,” he said.

If the levy doesn’t pass, the hospital is going to have to look at either reducing services or expanding partnerships with other healthcare organizations outside the county.

“Everything is on the table right now. We are in a really unsustainable position and I think if the levy does not pass, we’re going to have to look at other options,” Wolfe said.

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