Friday, August 20, 1999

Ailing health-care facilities
more important than

Straub doctors get pay cuts

By Helen Altonn


For the first time in its history, the Healthcare Association of Hawaii is canceling its annual convention this year to address the state's health care crisis.

Richard E. Meiers, association president and chief executive officer, said the board voted at a recent meeting to use the convention money for a study to bring about changes.

Major accounting firms have been asked to submit proposals to look at what state and federal reimbursements for health costs may be over the next five years, he said.

"We've asked them to identify all activities our facilities have begun to fund over the last few years because the state allegedly didn't have money, and come up with a list and put a dollar figure on it," Meiers said.

Chief executive officers and administrators of acute and long-term care facilities met recently at the association to consider their worsening finances.

Meiers stressed in a recent interview that hospitals, nursing homes and home health agencies are in serious trouble. "Most of our facilities are losing money big," he said.

He listed the developments contributing to their plight in the association's recent newsletter:

Bullet The federal Balanced Budget Act of 1997 resulted in severe federal cuts in Medicare reimbursements and more than 70 percent of its provisions won't take effect until 2000.

Bullet Reimbursements under the state's MedQUEST managed care program have remained the same since it began.

Bullet The state's Medicaid fee-for-service budget consistently faces cuts each legislative session, which often means lower reimbursements for providers.

Bullet The state and federal governments have increased unfunded mandates and the state government is planning additional cuts "which may further jeopardize the quality of care," Meiers said.

Although health care facilities nationally are feeling the effects of the reduced reimbursements, Meiers said, "the impact has been intensified in Hawaii due to the prolonged stagnate economy."

The facilities are providing more services and subsidies for programs and more uncompensated care, he said.

Some state changes also are occurring in the care of nursing-level residents that could have a major impact on those facilities, Meiers said.

He said some of the chief executive officers plan to meet with U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye on Aug. 30 to discuss the Balanced Budget Act and proposed legislation to make some changes "so it isn't so disastrous on our hospitals, our nursing homes and home health agencies."

The American Hospital Association this week is launching a campaign to have 1 million postcards delivered to the president and to each congressional delegation from the nation's 4.5 million hospital workers, Meiers said.

The message is that "we just have to have changes," he said. "It's gone just too far."

He said isle health administrators will ask for a meeting before Thanksgiving with the governor, legislative leaders and key committee chairs to tell them how serious the situation is.

"And if we don't get increased reimbursements, certain programs could be eliminated next year only because the money is not there," Meiers said.

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