Memorial's insurance premiums increasing

Rising costs have administrator scrambling for savings, income

by C.F. David

According to figures released on Friday, a potentially large increase in liability insurance premiums, plus costs passed on by rising fuel prices has Memorial Hospital Administrator, Sharon Cox crunching numbers.

Cox said that Memorial's current insurance carrier, (HCC), has been billing the hospital $88,872 per year for liability insurance. The company is proposing the premium be increased by 50 percent next year, which would put the dollar figure at $133,308 per annum.

That impacts our ability to keep the hospital viable,” Cox said. “It affects the salaries we can offer our employees. But, we must still pay 2004 wages to keep good doctors and nurses,” Cox emphasized. Right now I think we have quality doctors and nurses.”

Additionally, the hospital is feeling the crunch as fuel prices climb higher with the approach of summer. Food vendors have placed an additional .40 cents on the price of each box of food delivered in an effort to recoup some of their fuel costs. The delivery prices on medical supplies, perishable and otherwise, have seen an eight percent delivery surcharge added across the board for sub-minimum orders.

“And we can't afford to buy the amount of supplies needed so we have to pay the surcharge. We can't raise Medicaid to compensate. We have to eat it [the eight percent surcharge.],” Cox grimaced.

Cox realizes that as the county economy continues to be stagnated, she must guide the hospital and it's board in making wise, though sometimes difficult decisions.

“I think there are serious challenges here. But, you've had them for many years. This county is committed to this hospital. I see my role as being that of an educational conduit, ”Cox said.

Cox explained that at the moment the ratio of Medicaid and non-Medicaid beds in Cimarron Memorial was about 50-50.

“We need to look at sustaining our balance [financially] and it gets harder every day. Because I only have this much money,” Cox said looking at her cupped hands.

“We need to seriously look at our number of Medicaid beds,” Cox said. “Many nursing homes take none; it's a national trend. (A trend that Cox doesn't wish to follow.), however, she does want to study making an adjustment downward in the number of Medicaid beds and presenting her findings to the board. Asked how the ratio change might be accomplished, Cox immediately said no one would be put out of the nursing home; that attrition and the establishment of a waiting list would probably be used.

“We have to be very careful about what we decide. We must make both good financial and medical decisions. The right decisions morally and medically, there are compliance issues,” Cox said.

Cox had no answer when asked what the national trend meant for those aging and potential medicaid patients across the nation.

“I wish I knew. I think Congress is grappling with this; but at what point do you break the back of the system?” She asked.

“Everyone in the community needs to keep their eyes on what happens in Congress and the presidential elections.”

Cox also pointed out that the hospital is in contact with the Guymon Hospital District in an effort to bring Home Health and Hospice up at least to where it will be breaking even.

Also we are going to reinstate the collection of co-payments at the Emergency Room and in the clinic,” Cox said. “We will make a public announcement and you will have to present your updated insurance and Medicaid cards.

Cox's initial 90 day contract will expire May 1; and she has sent a proposal to the board whereby she would continue to work under the old agreement until July 1 and then submit another contract for one year.

“We still need local leadership [for the hospital], Cox said.

“But, I wouldn't want to leave in midstream,” she added.