Southeast Arizona Medical Center has helped generations of area residents achieve better health. SAMC has been serving this region since it was established in 1910.
Southeast Arizona Medical Center CEO Brian Bickel Trisha Maldonado/Douglas Dispatch
“From a financial prospective it’s extremely tenuous, we are living from paycheck to paycheck,” Brian Bickel, CEO, said. SAMC does not currently have a cash reserve.
Bickel who has been with SAMC for three years, said that in those three years he has seen a significant change from the State of Arizona’s prospective on how AHCCCS reimbursements are handled.
Federal health officials approved the State of Arizona’s five percent reduction in the rates hospitals and other healthcare providers are reimbursed for Medicaid patients, in October of 2011. This followed another approved five percent reduction in April 2011.
This is all part of Governor Jan Brewer's budget balancing package, which will save the state an estimated $95 million.
It all comes at the expense of healthcare facilities like SAMC and privately insured patients.
The SAMC clinic closed its doors in October of last year, due to the many federal and state cuts the hospital experienced.
The Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association (AzHHA) said that the state budget reductions over the past three years, including the rate rollbacks and eliminating Medicaid eligibility for thousands of Arizonans, amounted to $1.3 billion in cuts to healthcare facilities.
According to AzHHA the additional five percent cut added to four years of rate freezes and payment reductions, caused AHCCCS hospital payments to fall 33 percent below the actual cost of caring for patients.
“We absolutely have to have a hospital in Douglas, but when you have hospital that 50 percent of its business is paid for by a state agency that only reimburses about 70 percent, of what it cost me to provided that care. Not 70 percent what I bill, but 70 percent what it costs me to provide that care and then they cut that reimbursement even further, it provides a difficult situation. We have to have enough commercial business to offset the short falls, sometimes the money is there sometimes it isn’t,” said the CEO.
The SAMC’s governing board, and their Executive staff along with Sierra Vista Regional Health Center’s board and Executive staff are currently working on two fundamental issues. One being SAMC’s long term relationship with Sierra Vista Regional Health Center and the other SAMC’s long term financially viable option, Bickel said.
“One of the things the community needs to decide is, what do they want for health care, and is it financially feasible, and is the community willing to support it,” he added.
Bickel has been meeting with both Mayor Ortega and City Manager De La Torre, “There are a lot of options on the table that provide both short term and long term benefits to the facility, it’s the willingness of the city to make a financial commitment to the hospital,” Bickel said.
“Being part of Douglas has been an important goal throughout the years and with the help and loyalty of the community, SAMC can and will continue to provide health services that you can depend on,” he said.