Hospital to benefit from SF145 legislation

by nathan oster

With bad debt of $1.29 million and another $85,320 in charity care in 2013, South Big Horn County Hospital is poised to benefit financially from Senate File 145, a bill sponsored by Sen. Ray Peterson of Cowley that provides one-time relief to cash strapped hospitals around the state.

Peterson, appearing with Rep. Elaine Harvey of Lovell at a legislative recap session Thursday night at the South Big Horn Senior Center in Greybull, said the hospital midway between Basin and Greybull will receive $69,820 as a result of the bill.

The total includes $55,554 from a pot of $1 million set aside for all small critical access hospitals that have less than 25 beds and carry 100 days or less of cash reserves on hand and another $14,266 from a pot of $2 million that was earmarked for all of the state’s hospital which are struggling with the issue of uncompensated care.

According to the Wyoming Hospital Association, hospitals in Wyoming are expected to absorb an estimated $200 million in uncompensated care this year. SF145 was designed to help offset some of those costs, although Peterson himself admits that it’s purely a drop in the bucket, when it comes to the amount of money that hospitals are losing each year.

Bad debt consists of services for which hospitals anticipate but do not receive payment.

Charity care consists of services for which hospitals did not expect to receive payment via the determination of the patient’s ability to pay.

Of the six small critical access hospitals in line to receive the total $506,839, three are located within the Big Horn Basin. Powell’s share comes to $200,000, Thermopolis’ to $145,493 and SBHC’s to $55,554.

North Big Horn Hospital is in line to receive $208,266 — a little more than half of the $404,953 in charity care that it provided in 2013. North Big Horn’s bad debt was listed at $404,250, according to figures provided by Peterson.

Peterson and Harvey said lawmakers are going to study changes in the law pertaining to how hospitals are reimbursed, as well as how to get people to take better advantage of rural health clinics and community health centers, as opposed to using the more expensive emergency room in non-emergency situations.

In other legislative highlights:

  • Harvey said the legislature took steps to give companies incentives to improve worker safety. She said companies with good safety records will get a discount of 65 percent on their workers comp rates; companies with poor records would not only have to pay the base rate, but also an additional 65 percent. In two years that jumps to 85 percent, she said.
  • Peterson said he was dismayed that Gov. Matt Mead didn’t back off on his budget requests after the lower revenue projections came in. Peterson said direct distributions from to towns and counties have risen from $52 million in 2003 to $1.9 billion for 2016.

The distributions that were settled upon by lawmakers included $447,000 for Big Horn County’s municipalities, with Lovell, at $315,000, Greybull, at $251,000, and Basin, at $180,000, receiving the most.

  • Harvey said legislators approved an external cost adjustment of 2 percent for education for the rest of this biennium and 3 percent for the next biennium. The state hadn’t given on in 3 ½ years, she said.

Peterson said lawmakers spent $650 million funding education in 1999.

Now it’s around $1.5 billion.

  • Peterson said that as a result of all the money that was pumped into school construction, virtually all of the state’s buildings are now considered to be good for 50 years.
  • Harvey discussed legislation that will make it easier for farmer’s market vendors to sell breads, jellies, jams and pickles. They just have to be clear up front that they are produced in non USDA inspected kitchens.
  • Peterson said the bill that received the most discussion, one dealing with potential changes to gun-free zones around the state, did not pass.
  • Both lawmakers indicated that they’d received questions and/or concerns about the renovations to the state capitol. The price tag of the project, which includes not only the modernizing of the capitol but also moving expenses and a lease of the Jonah Bank building for at least the next three legislative sessions, is estimated in the $259 to $300 million range.

Peterson said lawmakers began studying the concept in 1973, put aside a small amount in 1996 and began putting away real money in 2008. “This is something we’ve been talking about for awhile now,” he said.