Q&A: Russell D. Harrington Jr., President and CEO of Baptist Health

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Monday, Oct. 1, 2012 12:00 am  

If you were king of the world, what would you do to control rising health care costs?

The inability for patients to pay for health care has had a devastating consequence not just for the patients but also for not-for-profit community-based hospitals that care for them. Last year, Baptist Health provided $175 million in health care services that was either pure charity or bad debt. To improve the health status of our citizens as well as the stability of our state's vulnerable hospitals, I strongly urge our state leaders to support expansion of the Medicaid program. An expansion of Medicaid eligibility would provide insurance coverage for a large percentage of Arkansas' uninsured, provide a significant step toward curbing the growth in health care costs and motivate the newly insured to seek medical care at the earliest stages of illness, rather than waiting to seek care at the most expensive point of care: the hospital emergency department. This expansion would be a great benefit to Arkansans in need.


What is the biggest issue confronting Baptist Health?

While we expect growth in the number of patients Baptist Health will serve, there will be increasing pressure by the government to reform payment and health care delivery systems at the same time. The unfortunate reality is that public policy makers will continue to make cuts in Medicare and Medicaid payments to hospitals in order to fund deficit reduction. Enacting additional Medicare and Medicaid cuts that only serve as a source of funds to address federal budgetary shortfalls will affect the work hospitals do for their communities, cause job loss for health care workers and hurt the local economy. This is a serious challenge especially for community-based charitable hospitals like those in the Baptist Health system that serve as the health care safety net for those who can't pay.


How might a partnership between UAMS and St. Vincent change health care services in Little Rock? Has Baptist looked at this sort of partnership?

As a general rule, we do not comment on the business arrangements and decisions of other health care providers. We remain focused more on what we need to do versus what others are doing.


Have you seen public-private hospital partnerships elsewhere? How have they worked?

Based upon what I have read on the subject, there have been mixed results around the country.




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