Hospital executives weigh in on healthcare act

October 9, 2013 10:21:10 AM

William Browning - [email protected]


Officials with Baptist Memorial Hospital-Golden Triangle say all the changes the Affordable Care Act will bring to our nation's healthcare system have yet to shake out. From the hospital's standpoint, that doesn't matter.  


The hospital isn't focused on things it cannot control. It's focused on what it can, meaning the number of patients it serves and its efficiency. 


"Anybody who has followed the news knows that this thing is up in the air," Bill Lancaster, assistant administrator at the hospital, said. "The only thing that we know about the Affordable Care Act is, reimbursements are going to go down." 


Lancaster, along with Brian Welton, also an assistant administrator at the hospital, spoke to the Columbus Rotary Club at the Lion Hills Golf Club on Tuesday. 


The Affordable Care Act was signed into law in 2010. It is a massive overhaul of the healthcare system aimed at providing health insurance for everyone who is currently unable to get coverage through their employers. It also requires everyone to purchase health insurance or face a financial penalty. 


The federal government has created an exchange program through which people can obtain insurance. Enrollment began a week ago. The exchange will be active on Jan. 1. 


For hospitals, how far down reimbursements will go is one of the unknowns, Lancaster said. As it currently stands today, Baptist Memorial Hospital-Golden Triangle receives 33 cents for each dollar charged. 


To prepare for that expected dip in reimbursements, the hospital is focused on growing. 


"We've got to grow this to have that volume to offset Obamacare," Lancaster said, adding that efforts have been underway for three years. 


Examples of how the hospital is increasing patient volume include expanding its oncology and cardiology services. Two months ago, the hospital expanded its oncology treatment services to Starkville. 


"We do it three days a week over there," Lancaster said. "We do anywhere from eight to 12 patients per day." 


Two cardiologists from the hospital also go to Starkville two days a week, Lancaster said. 


The hospital, in an effort to increase revenue, has entered into a partnership with Morrison Healthcare Food Services. The private company will now run the hospital's cafeteria and snack bar. 


"They have expertise," Lancaster said. "We'll have efficiencies there, plus some improve revenue on that." 


But the biggest component behind growth at the hospital, Lancaster said, is physicians. He said that since 2011, the hospital has brought in 21 physicians. In 2014, two more physicians will come on board. 


"Columbus is growing in the healthcare field," Lancaster said. "We're able to recruit. We're able to expand our facilities." 


The other way the hospital is preparing for the new health care law and its incentive-based reimbursement program, is increasing efficiency, Welton said. He said the hospital has recently upgraded its patient-handling program, as well as its patient-placement center, which helps streamline admittance. 


"All we know is that moving forward, we are going to get paid less to do more and we've got to find ways to be more efficient and still prove we are providing high-quality care to our patients," he said.

William Browning was managing editor for The Dispatch until June 2016.