Dan Rahn: Expanding Medicaid Critical for UAMS

by Mark Friedman  on Monday, Jan. 28, 2013 12:00 am  

A vote might come in February, he said. Failure to approve the expansion, whose cost will be covered by the federal government for three years starting in 2014, would be a financial blow to UAMS Medical Center and other hospitals around the state, hospital officials have said.

In fiscal 2012, charity care and bad debt for the entire UAMS campus rose 15.2 percent to $202.1 million.

The percentage of UAMS patients who don’t have insurance is about 12 percent.

Meanwhile, UAMS is seeing more patients in its emergency room. The average number of visits per month has jumped from 4,500 in fiscal 2011 to 4,750 in fiscal 2012 to more than 5,000 in the first half of fiscal 2013, Rahn said.

“It’s critically important to the future of the health system and the health of the population” that Medicaid be expanded, Rahn said.

It is unclear what impact health care reform, which will require people to have health insurance by Jan. 1 or face a penalty, will have on UAMS.

Rahn said he doesn’t know how many of the estimated 500,000 uninsured Arkansans will be covered come Jan. 1. Even if with insurance, it’s unknown if they will seek treatment at UAMS or go somewhere else for care, he said.

One way UAMS is looking to cut expenses is by partnering.

UAMS and St. Vincent announced in August that they had started talks to see if there was a way the state-owned UAMS Medical Center could work with Catholic Health Initiatives’ St. Vincent to improve health care while reducing costs.

They hired consultants from Deloitte LLP of New York at a cost of at least $1 million to examine areas where the two could partner.

Peter Banko, the CEO of St. Vincent, told Arkansas Business recently that Deloitte’s study should be finished by the middle of February.

Meanwhile, doctors from both hospitals are meeting to discuss areas where a partnership might be formed, Banko said. The hospitals agreed to an April 1 deadline to decide if they want to move forward with partnership talks, he said.



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