Baptist Health Plans for Growth with New Hospitals in Conway, Malvern

by Mark Friedman  on Monday, Jan. 6, 2014 12:00 am  

Baptist and other hospitals have hope for better financial days, though, as a result of Arkansas’ “private option.” Under Arkansas’ program, the federal dollars earmarked for the expansion of Medicaid — an optional part of the ACA — will be used instead to buy health insurance from private insurers for low-income workers.

It’s estimated that around 250,000 Arkansans will qualify for the private option program, which could cover as much as $670 million in hospital bills that would otherwise go unpaid during the next decade.

Continued funding for the program will be decided when the Legislature meets for a fiscal session next month. Harrington said he is urging legislators to approve the funding.

“It’s important for the people who don’t have insurance,” he said. “It also is extremely important for providers because it gives us an opportunity to take care of people that we were already taking care of but now have insurance.”

Conway Expansion

In November, Baptist announced it would build a hospital in Conway that is expected to open in 2016. Harrington said about 30 doctors from the area had urged Baptist to enter their market.

The doctors “had a strong desire to see a new hospital where they could have more direct input into the planning and operation of the hospital,” Harrington said.

Still, not everyone was thrilled with the announcement.

“We feel like we meet the needs adequately, and there’s not a need for a second hospital,” said Jim Lambert, president and CEO of Conway Regional Health System, which operates the only hospital in the city, Conway Regional Medical Center.

He said the health care market in Conway isn’t growing very fast. For 2012, Conway Regional reported a net income of $1.8 million on net patient revenue of $123.1 million. That revenue was only about 1 percent higher than in 2011, when the hospital’s net income was $6 million.

But Conway’s population is growing. It has nearly 59,000 people, an increase of 36.5 percent over the past decade.

Harrington said Conway needs another hospital; about 15 percent of Baptist’s patients come from Faulkner County and the surrounding area. “It’s always been an important part of our market, and this gives us a chance to solidify that and hold on to it,” he said. “We also see it as an opportunity to spread our area of service.”



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