Olympic Medical Center to help sign up uninsured for coverage
By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News
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The 2010 law, also known as “Obama-care,” expands health care coverage by broadening Medicaid eligibility and introducing state-based health insurance exchanges.
Open enrollment for individual health plans begins Oct. 1, with coverage kicking in Jan. 1.
“We’re going to have people ready to help people sign up so they can get insurance if they need it or if they want to do it,” OMC Chief Executive Officer Eric Lewis told the seven commissioners Wednesday.
The state selected Choice Regional Health Network of Olympia to be Clallam County’s lead organization to get people signed up locally.
“They’re also doing Jefferson County and Grays Harbor, Thurston and a few other counties,” Lewis said.
“So we’re working with Choice Regional Health, and we decided to apply to make OMC an in-person assister organization, and they approved us.”
The approval means OMC can train its personnel — case managers, social workers, financial counselors and others — to help patients find a plan that works for them.
“You go to the exchange, and it tells you whether you qualify for Medicaid or not,” Lewis said.
“If you do, you’re signed up. If you don’t, then you can go onto the health exchange if you want.”
According to state and federal estimates, between 6,000 and 7,000 of Clallam County’s uninsured will be covered under the new law.
Clallam County has four other in-person assister organizations: Volunteers in Medicine of the Olympics, Olympic Area Agency on Aging, Planned Parenthood and Forks Community Hospital.
“It’s big that OMC is an in-person assister,” Lewis said.
“I think we can really help people get signed up.”
On the legislative front, U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, met with OMC department heads and Commissioners Dr. John Miles and Jim Leskinovitch at the hospital last Friday.
Kilmer represents the 6th Congressional District, which includes the North Olympic Peninsula.
“We talked a lot about Medicare reimbursement, particularly with a lot of focus about physician reimbursement and primary care, recruitment and training,” Lewis said.
“We know that without adequate physician reimbursement, the delivery system really starts to fall apart.”
Kilmer toured the hospital — a Port Angeles native, he was born at OMC — and held a question-and-answer session with employees.
Next month, Lewis and Leskinovitch will return to Washington, D.C., for Rural Advocacy Days, a chance for small hospitals to lobby Congress.
‘No more cuts’
“The message is ‘Please, no more cuts,’” Lewis said.
“We’ve already been cut. The Affordable Care Act cut Medicare reimbursement. Sequestration cut it by 2 percent, which is $100,000 a month for us,” he said.
“There have been many other cuts, and I think further cuts really put services at risk, and that puts our patients at risk.”
He added, “We have to be engaged this fall because big decisions will be made.”
Meanwhile, OMC is in the midst of an ambitious planning effort.
The hospital district is updating its three-year strategic plan and preparing the 2014 budgets, a five-year campus development plan for Port Angeles and Sequim, and a community health needs assessment required under the Affordable Care Act.
“In my almost 15 years at Olympic Medical Center, I think this is probably the most important year of planning we’re ever going to have,” Lewis said.
“The most important document, I think, will be the first one, our strategic plan.
“That will drive the budgets. That will drive the campus development plans, and that will flow into the community health needs assessment.”
A draft strategic plan will be presented at community forums and roundtables in Port Angeles and Sequim before the board considers approving it Nov. 20.
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at email@example.com.
Last modified: August 22. 2013 5:42PM