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Loebsack meets with Skiff CEO

Published: Friday, Jan. 25, 2013 12:09 p.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, Jan. 25, 2013 12:17 p.m. CDT

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After touring Skiff Medical facility, U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack, Skiff President and CEO Steve Long, Skiff Clinical Operations Officer Brett Altman and Skiff Chief Financial Officer Mike Anderson discussed about upcoming financial issues.

The medical industry experienced major cutbacks. Medicare currently pays 81 cents on every dollar. That means Skiff lost money, but was still able to remain financially stable.

“With limited funding we were able to get the hospital back up and running,” Altman said. “Since 2007 we only had one year in the black. When Maytag closed volumes plummeted.”

The decrease in population and decrease in funding was one of the major causes of why the company had to lay-off employees.

“If medical reimbursement rates go down it becomes an issue,” Altman said.

Long informed Loebsack that quality became an issue, but Skiff has improved and will continue to improve their services.

Loebsack addressed the concern.

“I know that hospital’s have made tremendous sacrifices,” Loebsack said. “When people get hurt that is where I have a problem.”

Blue Cross/Blue Shield recently announced a price hike for individual health plans. 70 percent of the Skiff’s patients use Blue Cross/Blue Shield. The future of the state of insurance has Long worried.

“No ones exactly sure how the insurance exchange is going to work” said Long. “Medicaid expansion is really important for us, and we don’t know if it is going to be expanded in Iowa.”

Hospitals used to make five-year strategic plans, but now they make six to 18 month plans. Long has to plan by ear. The difficult part is he runs a hospital while knowing that he may lose major funding.

“Our job is to take care of people,” Long said. “We do not turn anyone away from a lack of ability to pay, however, we have to pay our bills to. We are dependent on people to pay their bills to us. It is difficult to budget when you don’t know whether people have insurance, and you don’t know what will happen to government programs.”

Skiff was dealt a surprise loss during the government’s budget crisis. A program was cut that provided major funding to hospitals nation wide.

“No one expected it,” Long said. “Some hospitals our size in Iowa were getting $700,000 a year from them. Imagine a budget that had $700,00 gone.”

Skiff offers a program called Skiff Cares that can waive off the remainder of the individuals bill. Overall, Skiff waives four million dollars a year through the program.

Skiff has been a staple in Jasper County for many years, and has grown to become the third largest employer in Jasper County. The company used to have over 400 employees , but government funding cutbacks forced Skiff to reduce their staff. They currently employ about 360 people.

“Reimbursment rates are really the big issue,” Loebsack said. “It affects physicians, it affect providers in general. We have to make sure that whatever we do we move Medicare rates from fees to service to value. That will be the right thing to do. That will save Medicare. Iowa will be treated fairly for once.”

Loebsack was a strong supporter of reforming healthcare, because Iowa received very little Medicare funding.

“It’s a great success story,” Loebsack said about Skiff. “Iowa does a great job of providing a number of health care providers that are wonderful, but we have to get that reimbursement rate up. They deserve better. It does have an affect on patient care. I have learned all the wonderful things Skiff has done over the years — all geared toward effective patient care. That is what we have got to do in Iowa and around the country.”

Loebsack’s daughter works in the medical field and he learned a lot from her.

Altman informed Loebsack that Skiff employs 20 physical therapist, and saw an increase in graduates from Des Moines Area Community College.

The City of Newton has a five year plan to attract businesses. One of the first things that businesses look for is a local hospital. Losing Skiff would make the city less appealing to new businesses.

Staff writer Matthew Shepard may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 425, or at mshepard@newtondailynews.com.

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