By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News
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Hargrove, D-Hoquiam, championed legislation that protects outpatient Medicaid reimbursement to the cash-strapped public hospital district.
“This will seriously help us in stemming the flow that we have financially to the red marks,” OMC board Chairman Jim Leskinovitch said in a Wednesday meeting.
“Without him, it would not have been done.”
The “sole community hospital” bill, which Gov. Jay Inslee signed into law in March, recognizes public hospitals in rural areas that have 24-hour trauma surgery coverage.
It increases Medicaid payments for outpatient services from 55 percent of cost to 70 percent of cost.
For OMC, it means a $1.2 million annual increase in revenue, CEO Eric Lewis said.
“It's pretty exciting to be able to do something that has such a tangible result for the community up here on the north end of the Peninsula,” said Hargrove, who represents the 24th District, which covers Clallam and Jefferson counties and part of Grays Harbor County.
Lewis said the bill, which was also championed by state Reps. Steve Tharinger and Kevin Van De Wege, both D-Sequim — who also represent the 24th District — “really helps stabilize our finances.”
“We would have been faced with very difficult decisions on which services not to have without this legislation,” Lewis said.
OMC is too large to receive the 100 percent Medicaid reimbursement enjoyed by “critical access” hospitals that have 25 beds or fewer, including Jefferson Healthcare and Forks Community Hospital.
More than 5,000 Clallam County residents have signed up for Medicaid so far this year because of Medicaid expansion in the Affordable Care Act. Nineteen percent of OMC patients are now covered by the government program.
“Without adequate Medicaid reimbursement, we couldn't survive,” Lewis said.
OMC is the only hospital in the state that had sole community hospital status in the final version of the bill.
Grays Harbor Community Hospital in Aberdeen would qualify if voters there decide to make it a public district.
Lewis said Hargrove “worked extremely well with the other side of the aisle in a bipartisan, professional way” to get the bill through the Senate, which ultimately approved the legislation 46-3.
“I think his years of bipartisan action and credibility on the budget and hard work helping others made all the difference,” Lewis said.
He also thanked the OMC board for lobbying for the bill, members of the public who wrote letters to Olympia and OMC's labor unions — UFCW 21 and SEIU 1199 — for “significant” support.
Hargrove thanked the bill's sponsor, Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia, for continuing to support it after it was determined that Providence Centralia would not become a sole community hospital.
Hargrove said he was proud to help protect the health care system of the North Olympic Peninsula and OMC's 1,100 jobs.
“If we lost the hospital up here, not only would the health care suffer, but obviously the economy would suffer,” Hargrove said.
“And with all those people not employed, all the businesses would suffer,” he added.
“And as people's businesses close, your tax-assessed values fall off the rolls. Your property taxes would go up.
“I mean, it would be a death spiral up here if we lost this hospital.”
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.