Monday, April 21, 2014
   
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Johnson: Bill not good for hospitals

New legislation will increase costs.

Passage of federal health care legislation hurts rural hospitals like Gothenburg Memorial Hospital by driving up the price of health care.

GMH administrator John Johnson believes there is nothing beneficial about the legislation.

More federal oversight with additional rules and regulations that have yet to be written will make health care more costly, he said.

“Anytime there’s additional legislation, that means more federal oversight,” Johnson said. “That view is shared by anyone in health care in rural communities.”

In rural areas, he said costs will increase and hospital boards will be forced to tighten budgets even more.

As a result, Johnson said it will become more difficult to recruit doctors because hospitals can’t offer what they can’t afford.

Throw in lower Medicare and Medicaid payments to health care providers and the cost of service spirals upwards even more.

Johnson said doctors across the country could expect to see a 21% decrease in Medicare and Medicaid payments the federal government has already decreased in past years.

However he noted that federal officials have postponed the reduction several times.

“How can you attract them if they’re not paid well?” he asked. “It’s all a recipe for disaster.”

In addition, Johnson said the legislation cripples rural hospitals from advancing important technology such as offering new types of testing and buying surgery equipment—both which translate into better patient care.

“It could drive rural hospitals out of business,” Johnson said.

The bottom line, he said, is higher costs for patients.

Johnson said rural hospitals that are suffering financially will likely have to approach their local community for more tax-based assistance.

Other things could be done to simplify health care costs and coverage but “overregulation blows in the face of opportunities to reduce costs.”

As an example, he offered the results of a recent hospital survey that indicates GMH will probably spend about $100,000 for facility lock down equipment associated with potential safety hazards because of a new state regulation.

Such things as fluids used for cleaning and chemicals used in lab testing must be secured when staff leaves the room where they are located.

Also mandated during the last Bush administration is the purchase of electronic health records equipment with a $1 million-plus price tag.

Paying for and implementing the computerized equipment can be done in phases but it must be finished by 2015 when Johnson said the hospital could potentially see an annual increase of $48,000 in federal money to help offset that expense.

Johnson wonders how long rural hospitals can roll with federal mandates and increased costs.

“You can’t improve the quality of health care provided when the income of the provider is taken away by the federal government,” he said.

Health care spending in the United States makes up 19% of the country’s gross domestic product.

Much of that amount, Johnson pointed out, is because of increasing costs and inflation.

Although Americans want answers about the legislation, he said there are none because health care is a political, not a health care issue.

“It’s unbelievable that the political system could put so many people in this country at risk because of partisan politics,” he said.

Like much federal legislation, Johnson said the bill includes things which have nothing to do with health care such as the revamping of federal student loan programs.

Although it’s been the goal of the Obama administration to decrease health care costs and insure more people, Johnson is concerned.

This health care plan was developed primarily to help 32 million uninsured Americans.

Of those 32 million, it’s unclear how many live in Nebraska and will benefit from the legislation.

A veto-proof Republican majority in the House and Senate following November elections could mean the repeal of health care legislation.

“If it is, government oversight has to be reduced and individual tort reform put in place to reduce frivolous liability” he said. “It should be the practice of medicine, not the guarantee.”

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