By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News
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“I think the good news is there are no cuts to Medicaid reimbursement, which is pretty amazing,” CEO Eric Lewis told the seven OMC commissioners Wednesday.
“It's the first time we haven't faced Medicaid cuts in a long time.”
Gov. Jay Inslee signed a new two-year budget last Sunday, just hours before the last budget cycle ended.
The new two-year budget expands Medicaid, which Lewis described as a “very big deal to reducing the uninsured in this county.”
The budget also continues Certified Public Expenditure, a Medicaid program that has helped OMC stay afloat with a boost in inpatient reimbursement.
“That's all good news,” Lewis said.
“The bad news is we were unable to get enhanced sole community hospital funding.”
OMC is one of four sole community hospitals — rural health care centers with more than 25 beds — in the state that do not qualify as “critical access.”
The 39 critical access hospital in Washington are paid 101 percent of cost to treat a Medicaid patient, while sole community hospitals are paid on a scale that amounts to about 60 percent of cost.
“For any sole community hospital, you're at a big reimbursement disadvantage,” Lewis said.
“We really have to make sure that large rural hospitals are not forgotten in Olympia and [Washington] D.C.”
Hospital officials lobbied to close the gap in Medicaid payments to the four sole community hospitals — OMC, Grays Harbor Community Hospital, Providence Centralia and Samaritan Healthcare in Moses Lake.
Grays Harbor and Centralia received a combined $1.6 million budget appropriation because their private status disqualifies them from the Certified Public Expenditure program.
Despite the efforts of Sen. Jim Hargrove, D-Hoquiam, an OMC proposal to fund all sole community hospitals did not make it into the final budget.
“I will say that Sen. Hargrove worked hard for us and did put our enhanced funding in the original Senate budget,” Lewis said.
“So we want to thank Sen. Hargrove. And Reps. Steve Tharinger and Kevin Van De Wege both worked really hard.
“We didn't get it in this biennium, but six months from now there's a new session starting and I think sole community hospital funding and recognition will be on the docket,” Lewis added.
“And I think we have commitment from the Washington State Hospital Association to support us this go-round from the beginning.”
Hargrove, Tharinger, D-Sequim, and Van De Wege, D-Sequim, all represent the 24th Legislative District, which covers Clallam and Jefferson counties and parts of Grays Harbor County.
“I think we've made a lot of progress in the state budget,” Lewis said.
“We really changed the discussion from how much more are we going to get cut to what is appropriate reimbursement to help Olympic Medical Center remain viable and stay a community asset.”
After six months of lobbying in Olympia, OMC officials are turning their attention to the federal level.
“There's a lot of challenges once the debt ceiling is hit and budget negotiations happen, and there's no doubt that Medicare is being considered for major cuts,” Lewis said.
“We have to try to influence how those cuts happen.”
Next week, Lewis will travel to Washington, D.C. to meet with U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Mountlake Terrace, the health care staff of U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Bothell, a grant writing consultant and others.
He plans to discuss Medicare reimbursement for physicians in hospital-based clinics, sole community hospitals and home health, as well as regulatory requirements.
“I think physician reimbursement is critical to the future of our community,” Lewis said.
“If Medicare doesn't pay them adequately, our health care delivery system is in trouble.”
OMC has a legislative advocacy link with information about state and federal health care issues on its home page, www.OlympicMedical.org.
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at email@example.com.