Skiff board reacts to health reform decision
Skiff Medical Center’s elected board and administrators breathed a sigh of relief Thursday during their regular monthly meeting after hearing the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision upholding President Obama’s health care law.
Its passage allows Skiff to continue receiving millions of dollars from the expanded Medicare Demonstration Program, which allows Skiff-size hospitals to get total reimbursement for costs associated with inpatient cares on Medicare patients.
Hospital president and CEO Steve Long told board members that the decision affirmed the hospital’s strategic plan and upgrades over the next four years.
“It is good for us at Skiff because of the Medicare Demonstration program,” he said. “I am conflicted personally, I really am, about many aspects of health care reform. But the bottom line for us as a hospital is that it turns upwards of $2 million a year for us for the next four years. We could not make it without that. It gives us the time we need to make the changes we need to make. It really is key for us.”
The federal program is scheduled to sunset after the four-year period, and Skiff’s administration has pledged to lobby members of Iowa’s congressional delegation in Washington to make the reimbursement system permanent.
Mary Swoboda, Skiff’s chief nursing officer, said Thursday that the hospital has been operating near capacity for inpatient beds for the past month. The hospital’s current census for inpatient beds is 35, and this month’s average is 28 in-house patients. The daily inpatient service average is 24, up four patients from last year. The more beds that are filled, the more Skiff is reimbursed by Medicare for cares provided.
Although Skiff’s demonstration program funding is secure, Long reminded board members that the future of other federal programs is not as certain. A moratorium on cuts to Medicare reimbursements to physicians is scheduled for the end of 2012. This would cause a 30 percent reduction in physician reimbursements and would effect hospitals nationwide. The budget sequester, scheduled to take place if Congress cannot come to an agreement on mandated budget cuts, would cut funding from many social programs including Medicare. Skiff administrators said Thursday that there is talk in Washington about backing off of cuts to the Pentagon and the military and taking more from the social programs.
With all the uncertainty, Skiff Chief Finnacial Office Mike Anderson reported that the hospital has the potential to end FY 2012 in the black for the first time since 2007. Anderson predicted that Skiff would have a slight deficit in 2013 of just under $150,000. This accounts for the expiration of one-time monies from the federal stimulus package, but does not account for saving that are expect from the transfer of operations of Skiff’s rural clinics to NewCare.
NewCare and Monarch Wing update:
The board also approved lease agreements for the Baxter, Monroe and Colfax rural Clinics that will be operated by NewCare – a group of specialty clinics that Skiff began a partnership with earlier this year. The lease stipulates that if NewCare decides to end their services at any time, the clinics will go back under Skiff control.
The board also announced that after nearly two months of closure, the Monarch Wing, formerly used solely to house hospice patients, will now reopen for inpatient and swing bed use. A controversy erupted in April after Skiff announced plans to use the wing for other purposes. Confusion arose that the wing’s re-designation would mean the end of hospice cares at Skiff.
Long said in April that the Monarch area would still be the hospital’s first choice for inpatient hospice placement. Strategic patient placement, housing low acuity patients next to hospice services, would be used to secure the privacy and comfort for families and individuals recveiving end-of-life cares.
The wing’s re-designation allows Skiff to place an type of patient in the wing, complying with state law. It is also expected increase the hospital’s reimbursement through the demonstration program, allowing more inpatient services.
Steve Long said the first patient to use the updated wing is scheduled to be placed today.
Mike Mendenhall can be contacted at (641) 792-3121 ext. 422 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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