Saturday, March 09, 2013

EDITORIAL >> More Medicaid hospital lifeline

Hospitals in small towns and rural communities have struggled for decades as they cared for indigent patients who are uninsured and cannot pay their medical bills. North Metro Medical Center in Jacksonville, for example, has written off millions of dollars in indigent care over the years without hope of recovering any of that money.

Jodi Love, the chief executive officer at North Metro, says in a front-page story today that the latest Medicaid plan for Arkansas would help some 200,000 uninsured poor through the health-insurance exchange by paying for most of their hospital expenses.

As much as $100 million in additional Medicaid funds would make their way to Arkansas with no cost to the state for three years. After that, Arkansas would have to match 10 percent of Medicaid, which is still a good deal for a poor state like ours.

With more Medicaid, the number of expensive visits to the emergency room would drop as patients get admitted to North Metro with the additional funds available to hospitals and doctors. The poor, who are now uninsured, could see a physician before an emergency occurs.

North Metro is also getting squeezed with lower reimbursements from insurance companies and Medicaid and Medicare. North Metro, like most hospitals, gets a flat $850 per day reimbursement for Medicaid patients, regardless how much service they receive. What’s more, the recession has cost the hospital millions of dollars in lost revenues for elective surgeries that people have put off until the economy improves.

Regardless of the challenges facing North Metro and other small hospitals, pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into health care through Medicaid can only help solidify North Metro’s bottom line in these difficult times.