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Hospital gets break with bill

A little relief can go a long way, and thanks to the federal government, McDuffie Regional Medical Center will soon receive a much-needed respite.

The recently passed federal Medicare Prescription Drug Bill, which gives prescription drug benefits to seniors, stands to greatly benefit MRMC, and as a result, the patients it serves.

For starters, the bill requires the federal government to reimburse local hospitals with more money for Medicare expenses that are considered inpatient care. MRMC CEO Doug Keir said that the financial relief will be a big help in dealing with declines in state funding.

"Obviously, our responsibility here is to be able to provide services as not only a safety net hospital for our community, but for the communities that surround us. ... Any assistance that the government can give us, particularly in this regard ...will go a long way toward helping us to continue to generate excess revenue over expenses, which obviously keeps you afloat in any business," he said.

In addition to larger Medicare reimbursements, the bill also calls for the elimination of some older cuts to the program.

"The prescription drug bill provides additional Medicare funding, which was originally cut in 1997 with the Balanced Budget Act," said Mr. Keir via a written statement.

It all adds up to around $200,000 in extra funds for MRMC this year, though those projections are loosely based on patient number and claims estimates.

The Medicare bill could also indirectly improve patient care. Mr. Keir said that as an offshoot of increased Medicare funding, MRMC will possibly be more competitive in recruiting top-quality personnel.

"Without the funding, it may have limited access simply because you can't afford to recruit, and thereby you can't open beds that otherwise you may have filled with those patients."

The bottom line, said Mr. Keir, is that MRMC would have been forced to cut costs from somewhere.

"If the funding had continued to go down, then we would have been looking obviously to other alternatives, like looking at secondary markets to buy used equipment, those kind of things. Indirectly, (this bill) allows us to continue to provide the quality of care that we are known for around this area," he said.

The Medicare Prescription Drug Bill will remain in effect until 2014.



Web posted on Thursday, January 8, 2004


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