Sue Lyster: Hospital finances unlike other businesses

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To the editor:

I would like to respond to Gary Cole and all others who share his opinion.

I have been on The Memorial Hospital Board of Trustees for the last nine years, and I also am a business owner. I think it is difficult to understand the hospital's reimbursement system, because it is unlike many other business.

In most businesses, a consumer pays the price asked for an item or service. In the health care system, the amount the hospital receives for a service is based on the individual and the type of coverage he or she has, or ultimately doesn't have.

With an average person having standard health insurance, the hospital would collect 80 percent of the bill. TMH receives approximately 53 percent on a Medicare patient and 37 percent on a Medicaid patient. We have many patients who do not have insurance who would qualify for an uninsured/underinsured program that discounts their hospital services between 15 to 75 percent.

On top of that, last year, we wrote off just more than $1.4 million in bad debt. It is difficult to run a business with these reductions in revenue, but it is important for the community to understand that this is what hospitals are faced with.

The letter references that we should use our resources to make sure everyone has access to health care. In essence, that is exactly what we are providing.

We are a county hospital that cannot deny emergency care to a patient coming through our doors. The county gives us an annual payment of approximately $204,778 to help cover our uninsured and underinsured population, which is down from $460,629 that we were receiving in 1998.

During the last nine years, the hospital has made many adjustments to its business plan to try to generate more revenue so that we would not have to come to the taxpayers for their help in constructing a new building. Due to an unforeseen increase in building materials and construction costs, our building costs have exceeded our expectations.

We are currently able to pay for 60 percent of the project and are asking the community to help us with the balance. A 3-mill increase gives us the ability to provide a new building that will take us into the future and sustain our mission to provide care for the many residents of Moffat County and our surrounding service area.

I believe that the strength of our community lies in our health care and education. Based on a $100,000 household, the hospital is asking for $23.88 per year and the school program is asking for $40. With a combined annual support of $63.99 per $100,000 household, we would have the ability to secure the vision for our families and the community we serve.

I ask for your support.

Please vote yes on 1A and 3A.

Sue Lyster

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