Weems Memorial Hospital got some good news last week.
About $803,000 worth of good news.
Weems CEO Mike Cooper gave to county commissioners Tuesday morning the same report he gave the hospital board last Thursday, March 30, which was that the hospital had received, belatedly, its full allotment of LIP (Low Income Pool) funding from the state, money that flows to hospitals for providing care to the medically indigent.
“It certainly put us in a much better position,” Cooper told his board.
“Not all hospitals got that money,” he told reiterated to commissioners. “TMH didn’t get theirs.”
The LIP funds are by no means all of the outstanding government monies owed the hospital; Weems still has about $250,000 in DSH (Disproportionate Share) monies from Medicaid coming its way.
But the infusion of cash has been a blessing. “We’re able to maintain cash needs without further assistance from the county or trust fund,” Cooper told the hospital board.
In assessing the current health care funding prospects now being debated in Washington and in Tallahassee, the Weems CEO told both the hospital board and county commissioners that he is far more concerned about what the state may do than what Congress will.
“There’s a lot of attention put on President Trump and the Affordable Care Act, but I don’t see that as a major threat to this particular hospital,” he said. “The biggest threat right now is at the state level.”
Cooper said Gov. Rick Scott has proposed a $989 million cut to Medicaid, and the Florida House has countered with a $627 million cut, with both far in excess of the Florida Senate’s proposed $250 million cut.
“The governor and the House are anti-hospital and health care,” he told commissioners. “The only place we are getting traction is in the Senate.”
Cooper told commissioners that the state of Florida ranks 48th in the United States in Medicaid spending per capita, 49th on Medicaid spending on children, and last in Medicaid spending on pregnant women.
“We will move to 51 on all counts” if the pending cuts come through, he said.
Last week, Cooper told the hospital board that Weems tops the list of Florida hospitals when it comes to providing care to indigents, as a percentage of overall revenue.
Cooper said there is a proposal in Tallahassee to exempt rural hospitals from the Medicaid cuts, which he called “a dire threat.”
Commissioner Smokey Parrish said he was not pleased with the proposed cuts.
“Why would they do that? Not everyone’s a millionaire,” he said. “What are these people supposed to do? Trump’s suggestion is to give a state a block grant.
“It concerns me that the safety net that some of these folks need is going away,” Parrish said. “I can’t do anything about it.”
Cooper said Scott favors instituting a managed care program for Medicaid, where all patients have their care governed by a primary care provider, and which funds for treatment are limited to a certain amount per month.
He said the hospital in Perry was assigned 600 new patients last week, but none were within 100 miles of a provider. “Those people got to the emergency room because they know they’ll get help,” Cooper said. “Managed care programs have been proved ineffective since the 1980s.”
Cooper said Weems has hired an advanced registered nurse practitioner who lives in Apalachicola to start fulltime at the clinic in May. He told the hospital board that he has also heard from a woman from Delaware who plans to relocate here soon and who has applied for Florida licensure.
“We have an interim at Apalachicola who would like to stay full time but I’m not sure where his price tag would be,” he told commissioners. “And we have two more who want to come.”
He said the clinic recently lost a staff member who went to the prison for a better benefit package.