2014 was a year of transformation for Oregon’s health care system. Our state saw a huge drop in the uninsured and large increase in the Medicaid population due to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). More than 240,000 Oregonians have gained coverage through Cover Oregon, including 69,000 enrolled in private health plans and 171,000 enrolled in the Oregon Health Plan, the state’s version of Medicaid.
Each year the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) publishes a community benefit survey for all of Oregon’s hospitals. The intent of this survey is to quantify what each hospital does in terms of Medicare and Medicaid payment shortfalls, provision of charity/free care, health education costs, community health improvement, donations and other such costs. Given the expansion of health coverage through the ACA (Obamacare) these numbers have changed as the amount of charity care has actually decreased as more and more people have become eligible for Medicaid. The ACA purposefully reduced charity care costs, giving organizations more dollars to spend on preventative care and overall wellness with the intention of keeping more people healthy and out of hospitals.
I wanted to take a few minutes and share with you some highlights from Willamette Valley Medical Center’s (WVMC) 2014 Community Benefit survey results. In total WVMC provided $10.7 million in community benefits. Some of the items that make up this number include;
- Community health improvement efforts- $87,000
- Health Professionals education costs- $876,000
- Cash and in-kind (including taxes)- $1,043,000
- Medicaid unreimbursed costs- $5,300,000
- Medicare unreimbursed costs- $2,900,000
- Charity care costs- $274,000
Following the trend throughout the state, we too saw a decrease in charity care as we worked to help our community sign up for insurance coverage. In fact, WVMC was one of the first hospitals in the state to have its registration/admitting staff certified as presumptive eligibility counselors. This allowed us to ask patients upon arrival a few questions and determine immediately if they were eligible for coverage; meaning that their current visit would be covered by insurance. We recognize the complexity and difficulties of understanding the financial aspects of the current healthcare system and that billing issues in particular continue to be a challenge. I want to assure you that we are working diligently to improve this process.
We are very proud of the role that WVMC plays in the McMinnville community. Besides all of the financial aspects of the community benefits we provide, we have remained active in a variety of community programs including non-profit organizations such as Juliette’s House, Henderson House, YCAP, and the WV Cancer Foundation to name a few. We are also very active in teaching and training for health professions offering clinical rotations for medical students, nursing students from both Linfield College and Chemeketa Community College, physical therapy and respiratory therapy programs and have participated in internships for the McMinnville High School Pathways Program and McMinnville Economic Development Partnership.
Even with all of these many changes, WVMC has continued to provide the community with high quality care as exhibited by our patient satisfaction scores as well as recognition by The Joint Commission as a Top Performer for the 5th year in a row. This puts us in a category with only 117 other hospitals in the country.
I hope that by sharing some of this community benefit survey information with you that you will have a better idea of WVMC’s total contributions to our community as well as the outstanding care we are providing to our patients and families. On behalf of our 600 employees and more than 100 physicians I want to thank you for your support of WVMC as our goal remains the same….to provide amazing care every time.
-Peter A. Hofstetter, Chief Executive Officer
Willamette Valley Medical Center