Proposed Increases To Guam Hospital Fees Opposed

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Insurer calls hikes ‘outrageously high and inflationary’

By Mar-Vic Cagurangan

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Marianas Variety Guam, Sept. 20, 2013) – Guam Memorial Hospital (GMH) may have to adjust its proposed 60 percent "blended" increase in hospital fees, which were not well-received at yesterday’s public hearing, GMH Chief Financial Officer Alan Ulrich said yesterday.

The projected revenues from the proposed increases have been factored into the GMH budget for fiscal 2014, but they require legislative approval.

The proposed increases apply to all services at the hospital at varying rates.

"The hospital hasn’t done a good job at managing its fees," Ulrich said, noting GMH has not increased its emergency room rate since 2010.

But in light of the public response, Ulrich said the hospital administration may have to review its fee proposals.

Insurance companies are particularly concerned about a further surge in healthcare costs on Guam, a burden that will ultimately be carried by the industry. In the end, they said, the proposed fee increases may only further hurt, instead of sustain, the government hospital.

Frank Campillo, plan administrator for Calvo’s SelectCare, described the proposed fee schedule as "outrageously high and inflationary," noting some fees show an increase of as much as 3,000 percent.

"Sen. (Ben) Pangelinan has stated that these fee increases will translate into a 23 percent increase in health insurance premiums to GovGuam and these percentage increases will be consistent across the health insurance sector," Campillo stated in his written testimony.

Drop

As a result, Campillo added, more people may drop their insurance altogether, therefore further increasing the number of uninsured on Guam.

Campillo also reminded GMH that in less than a year it will have a competitor – the Guam Regional Medical City – "that will possibly operate with more realistic budgets" and possibly lure a significant number of insured patients.

"GMH will be left to provide service to all non-payers and some government programs, as health insurers will need to provide hospital alternatives that will be reasonably priced in order to keep premiums affordable and deliver quality medical care to our insured community," Campillo said.

"We listened," Ulrich said. "We would review our proposed fee rates again before our next board meeting."

He said the hospital administration has identified five ways to raise its revenues, including seeking adequate reimbursements from Medicare and Medicaid.

"We are asking of Medicare and Medicaid to reimburse us at our cost," Ulrich said.

Vice Speaker Benjamin Cruz urged the hospital administration to further look into its internal problems before attempting quick-fix solutions.

"I've been on heart medication for the last five years. In order to keep myself healthy, my doctor told me to do three things: change my diet, take my meds, and do aerobic exercises," Cruz said.

"Although she (my doctor) sees me in the gym, she never sees me using the machines because she knows I don't like to sweat. I may look good on the outside but I'm not so good on the inside. GMH needs to sweat; they need to clean up their billing and they need to sweat," he added.

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