CEO at HCMC hopeful about new bill’s impact

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
Hillsboro Community Medical Center’s chief executive officer is hopeful that a new bill introduced in the U.S. House and Senate will mean good news for his institution.


“I think there are a number of features in the bill as they’re introduced that would be helpful,” Mike Ryan said. “The proof of the pudding, of course, will be what finally gets passed.”


Rep. Jerry Moran, chairman of the House’s bipartisan Rural Health Care Coalition, introduced legislation June 13 to provide higher federal reimbursements, offer better technology and services, and reduce staffing shortages in rural hospitals.


The same week, Sen. Pat Roberts co-sponsored an identical bill in the U.S. Senate.


“As introduced, it looks very good to us,” Ryan said.


According to Moran’s office, the Rural Health Improvement Act would:


— improve the ability to recruit new physicians and nurses to rural hospitals.


— equalize the reimbursements between urban and rural facilities.


— improve home-health-care services in rural areas by eliminating a planned reduction in Medicare payments for that purpose.


— increase funding for technology services such as telemedicine, which allows specialists from larger hospitals to diagnose and treat patients in remote areas via interactive television.


Ryan said HCMC would benefit from some funding provisions more than others, but the hospital would benefit most from incentives to help recruit new medical staff.


“We need to provide scholarships for nurses and lab techs to try to make sure we have a work force for our future,” he said. “That concerns me a lot. We’ve got a very fine staff of people right now who provide services and take care of people. I’m very proud of them. But I have to keep the future in mind also. Work-force shortages is the thing we’re going to be facing.”


Travis Murphy, press secretary for Moran’s office, said the bill has wide-spread support in the House and passage should not be a problem.


“It’s not a real controversial bill,” Murphy said. “The Rural Health Care Coalition is comprised of 174 members. Granted, as the bill moves through Congress, I’m sure changes will be made. But I think the overall idea of the bill is pretty well supported.”


Murphy said he hoped the bill would be passed within the year.


The Rural Health Improvement Act is the latest legislation to come out of the Rural Health Care Coalition in an effort to offset the damage done to rural hospitals through the Balanced Budget Act of 1997.


“We’ve still got a long way to go yet,” Ryan said. “The Balanced Budget Act really took a lot away from hospitals. The reconciliation bills that have been passed since did a little bit to give something back to hospitals, but, it’s still a long way from making us whole.”


Ryan said he is encouraged by the current financial condition at HCMC.


“I like what I see about the hospital here,” he said. “We’ve still got our share of challenges, day in and day out. But overall, financial operations are improving.


“As I’ve said before, I think Hillsboro is certainly large enough to support a hospital. I believe they will, and I appreciate the support the community gives us.


“I’m very optimistic about our future.”

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