BENTON, AR - With the private option now so close to becoming law, Arkansas hospitals and patients could soon see some major changes.
Administrators at Saline Memorial Hospital say in the last 10 years the rising number of uninsured patients who can't pay for services is cutting into the hospitals funds. CFO and COO Carla Robertson hopes the private option healthcare bill passed by the House Tuesday can offset some of that debt.
Robertson says no matter who walks through the doors, everyone will be treated regardless of ability to pay, but over the years, the number of patients with health coverage has dropped, sending hospital costs and debt through the roof. "We have to write off an enormous amount of charges that are not paid."
If the private option passes, Saline Memorial will get a better rate, adding patients to insurance rolls who previously didn't have coverage. But the deal isn't done yet, and there are still a lot of unknowns. "We don't know exactly what the rates will be, but we do anticipate we will see an improvement."
An improvement on the $12 million a year in bad debt from caring for uninsured patients. Robertson says some patients already insured fear their premiums will go up, but that won't happen, at least not right away. "It would be at least another year before we would see some significant changes."
Changes in paperwork, processing, and a lot of things hanging in the balance. The House vote is somewhat of a relief for Saline Memorial for now. Robertson says there is at least one thing that won't change. "Those patients will be seen and we put quality as number one."
The Senate votes Wednesday and three quarters of the Senate needs to vote to fund the program. That means at least 27 votes are needed fund the private option.