HomeTown Health Completes Grass Roots Policymaker Tour of 34 Rural Hospitals in Summer 2013

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Rural hospital reimbursement issues solved in real time through HomeTown Health Policy Maker Tours through Georgia.

hometown health serves rural hospitals in georgia

HomeTown Health

Georgia’s rural hospitals are totally subsidy dependent. If the subsidy goes away the hospital goes away.

HomeTown Health has continued its mission of policymaker education for Georgia’s rural hospitals and rural health care by completing its fourth grass roots policymaker rural hospital tour for the summer of 2013. The visits are designed to carry high level state policymakers to the rural hospital landscape to see and hear the issues associated with rural hospitals and rural health care. The trips are highly refined educational endeavors sponsored and conducted by HomeTown Health.

The final 2 day grass roots tour was held on September 24th and 25th and included visits to 8 rural hospitals covering nearly 600 miles of travel in rural Georgia. In addition to hospital tours, this visit included a visit to a geriatric psych unit, a nursing home, two newly completed Emergency rooms that handle 20,000 visits annually, a visit with a hospital board, and a visit with telemedicine providers.

Dr. Jerry Dubberly, Georgia’s Chief of Medicaid, was able to get deep “into the weeds” on many reimbursement and policy issues on this tour. Using his I-pad during the hospital discussions to communicate with respective parties back in Atlanta, Dr. Dubberly was able to get to solutions, answers, and resolutions immediately as the issues were identified and in many cases was problem solving real time.

The hospitals universally told policy makers that there is no way for rural hospitals survive under the cuts to cash flow by DSH and UPL loss, Cash loss due to complexity of Medicaid Managed Care and Health Insurance Exchange, ICD10 implementation, sequestration, value based purchasing and RAC’s. The message was clear – Georgia’s rural hospitals are totally subsidy dependent. If the subsidy goes away the hospital goes away.

Over the four policymaker tours conducted between May and September of 2013, thirty four hospitals had the opportunity to present their primary issues which include the following:
1)    Cash Flow, Cash, Flow, Cash Flow
2)    Inability to recruit physicians to rural Georgia and need for PA’s and nurse practitioners
3)    The devastating effect that insurers will have on rural hospitals where expected losses in margin were heard to range for $200,000 to over $500,000 for a hospital annually due in large part to redirecting hospital services to free standing centers
4)    The fear of the impact of the Health Insurance Exchange
5)    The devastating effect of the loss of DSH and UPL to rural hospitals
6)    The difficulty of rural communities to provide local subsidies to rural hospitals
7)    Soaring uninsured and underinsured accounts that pay about two cents on the dollar
8)    Fear of Federal cut to Critical Access Designation
9)     Inability to generate and spend replacement capital due to no ROI with such low reimbursement while maintenance need is serious
10)    The need to fill nursing home beds with alternative patients as the community based care reduces nursing home census

The nature of these policymaker visits is to cross pollinate communication between Georgia government departments, agencies, and legislative branches, in that HomeTown has carried to the field both the House and Senate Budget Offices, Office of Planning and Budget, DCH, and Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities and HP. These policymakers ride together for two days and share a lot of information while expanding relationships. The purpose of the trips is to get the message of the dire straits of rural hospitals in the delivery of health care to key decision makers. At the end of each tour the policymakers are impressed to know that rural hospitals have sought many ways to solve a problem before elevating it to the policymaker level. They also know that Georgia’s rural hospitals are not “crying wolf”, but have an urgent need for help and resources.

HomeTown has taken the knowledge learned from these visits and has configured its 14th Annual Stakeholder 2013 Fall Conference on November 13-15, 2013 at Callaway Gardens in such a way as to address every issue that has been raised on these visits.

About HomeTown Health, LLC

HomeTown Health, LLC is an organization of 70 rural and small hospitals, located throughout the southeast, which collectively pursue ways to help our hospitals survive in this environment of tremendous budget cuts from the state and federal level. The mission of HomeTown Health is to ensure that rural healthcare is preserved at the local community level wherever possible and that a continuum of care is available to the rural populations. What began as a handful of community hospitals 14 years ago has now grown into an organization of over 70 hospital members and 60 business partners. For more information, visit http://www.hometownhealthonline.com.

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Meghan Williams
HomeTown Health, LLC
+1 229.308.4996
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