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Hospitals brace for budget cuts

Thursday, October 27, 2011

McCOOK, Nebraska -- It's clear that the healthcare industry will need to shoulder some of the burden of national debt reduction, Community Hospital President Jim Ulrich told the hospital's board of directors Wednesday.

Ulrich had recently attended the Nebraska Hospital Association annual convention, where the deficit reduction plan was a key topic.

"There are huge cuts that are possible over the next 10 years and healthcare, like every other industry, is going to take their share," Ulrich said.

Cuts in reimbursement rates to hospitals were expected and some entities were challenging the certification of critical access hospitals, he said.

That talk was currently around decertification of those hospitals that were within 10 miles of each other, which would not affect Community Hospital, as it is 25 miles from them to the nearest other hospital.

"Decertification would make it very hard for those hospitals affected to survive," explained Ulrich, who said that if a hospital did not have volume to offset the federal regulations it was bound by, it likely would not be able to continue to operate.

According to Ulrich there are no hospitals in Nebraska that would be in danger with the 10-mile rule, but if that number were increased to a 15 mile rule, it could affect about a dozen Nebraska hospitals.

Ulrich said he and his staff would continue to be as good of financial stewards as they could be, "but we have to closely monitor that item."

During the state convention that Ulrich attended, Community Hospital was also recognized for excellence in the critical access division. The award came as a result of process improvements implemented in the past year that triggered a 25 percent increase in volume in that area.

Ulrich told the Gazette that the credit belonged to his team members and caregivers for doing an excellent job and working together.

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