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LRMC official explains hospital debt

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POSTED: February 6, 2009 10:41 a.m.
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Sam Johnson

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Like hospitals nationwide, Liberty Regional Medical Center is seeing more and more patients who can’t pay, but, according to its chief financial officer, the local hospital is holding its own.
“We didn’t lose money in 2008,” CFO Sam Johnson told the Hinesville Rotary Club on Tuesday. “We’re trying to be more efficient, keep the cap on our expenses.”
Johnson explained how the hospital handles the growing issue of uninsured patients to Rotarians.
According to Johnson, 18 percent (1.7 million) of Georgians are currently uninsured, the fifth highest rate of uninsured residents among states in the country.
He said when there is a large uninsured population the burden is often left on the hospital’s shoulders because they are required by law to treat everyone who comes in seeking care.
Because uninsured citizens sometimes try to treat themselves or avoid getting proper medical treatment, they often don’t see a doctor until a crisis occurs.
“We see a lot of people use the emergency room as a primary care doctor,” Johnson said. “They show up near death.”
Johnson explained when people are unable to pay for treatment, the hospital ends up eating the costs.
He said there are many reasons why people are uninsured, including health factors and an inability to pay for independent insurance or lack of insurance plan from an employer. And, Johnson said, that last group is growing because of economic trends.
“Eighty-five percent of people who lose their jobs, lose their insurance,” Johnson said.
He said coming up with a viable solution to the problem is on everyone’s mind.
“Allowing flexible insurance policies that include rewards and incentives,” Johnson said of one possible solution.
 

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