WGH chief: Obamacare hurts bottom line

Among other factors, the Affordable Care Act is detrimental to Warren General Hospital’s bottom line, WGH Chief Executive Officer John Papalia said during the hospital’s public board meeting last Wednesday.

“While the Affordable Care Act is attempting to ensure all patients will be covered with insurance, the reality is the patients who did not have coverage before, who have it now, are faced with outrageously high deductibles. The result will again fall on the health care facilities providing the care,” he said.

“These patients, who are forced to have insurance, still can not afford it and when faced with unfortunate health situations will turn to hospitals, like they should. However, the deductibles may go unpaid. Hospitals may incur an additional amount of bad debt from these patients,” he added.

Another facet of the ACA is the requirement to set up and maintain Electronic Medical Records, which Papalia said comes at a very high cost to all health care facilities.

He admitted that it is the right thing to do, as people could carry a card with all their medical information.

“The competition and pressures for providing health care for our region is increasing at unprecedented rates,” he said.

The local competition for services includes five other rehabilitation and therapy facilities in Warren, that pulls dollars from the hospital. “Every time an orthopedic patient… gets sent to Erie, takes revenues from our community,” he said.

He continued, “The laboratory was also recently restructured in an effort to reduce costs. The reconfiguration of services resulted in a $500,000 annual savings and will not affect specimen processing and result receipt and notification.

“The union played a crucial role in the lab restructure as well as the recent licensed practical nurse layoff. The union for cooperation in the efforts to find efficiencies that will retain a sound, economically viable hospital for Warren County. The Warren community should be very proud of the support the union provides,” he said.

Fr. John Neff, pastor at St. Luke’s and St. Anthony’s churches in Youngsville and Saybrook, asked Papalia, “What efforts are being made by the board and the staff here at Warren General to keep from being taken over by the larger conglomerates? What’s being done to keep our independent status here?”

Papalia said, “We have a strong desire to remain an independent community hospital,” adding that the best way to achieve that is to remain strong economically. “There is a full-out battle between UPMC and Highmark for market share and patients.”

“I wish I had a crystal ball that said we’ll do this forever. I do have a crystal ball that tells me we’ve made the right decisions… to get back to a growth pattern. But the pressure is going to get harder and harder,” he said.