Bill in Legislature could close local hospital
A bill in the state Legislature would likely put the new Coulee Medical Center out of business within three years.
That’s according to J. Scott Graham, CMC’s chief operating officer, who spoke to the chamber of commerce Thursday.
House Bill 2130 would affect 38 “Critical Access Hospitals” in the state by changing the way they are reimbursed for expenses under Medicaid, a federal and state program that helps pay for care to millions of people who can’t afford it.
“Instead of being in a financially viable position, … it would put us at about $1 million to $2 million deficit every year.”
Graham said Coulee Medical Center is financially better off than many rural hospitals and predicted that some nearby would close immediately if the bill passes.
The bill is part of the Legislature’s quest to close a $2.5 billion shortfall, Graham said, but HB 2130 would address a small sliver of that, saving the state about $22 million.
But because it affects the amount that comes from the federal government, the total impact to small hospitals come to about $70 million, Graham said.
“It seems like a small cut,” Graham noted, “but it disproportionately affects critical access hospitals, as opposed to large hospitals.”
Graham noted the Legislature must cut the budget because voters rejected a tax increase last November. “They don’t know what else to do,” he said.
Graham said the new local hospital would likely survive for two to three years while offering fewer services and laying off staff.
CMC employs more than 200 in relatively high-wage jobs, he noted.
Its patients would end up going to larger hospitals in cities, with higher costs that would lose money even faster than they do now on Medicaid patients.
“If there’s no hospital, there’s going to be lots and lots of helicopter rides at incredible expense,” Graham said.
The major sponsor of the bill, Rep. Eileen Cody — (D) 34th District — doesn’t seem to care, Graham said, but “I think reasonable people understand this is bad legislation.”
He said most local-delegation legislators had been supportive of the hospitals’ position, but Rep. Cary Condotta, of Wenatchee, is “on the fence.”