The Affordable Care Act: Smaller Hospitals React

"Our mission is to relieve pain and suffering and improve the health status of our community and it's a pretty simple, but noble mission and that's what we strive to do everyday."

Leitchfield, Ky (WBKO) --More than 60 years ago a group of concerned citizens made a pledge to serve the medical needs of Grayson County. That commitment is now Twin Lakes Regional Medical Center.

"It was started by a group of concerned citizens and it's just grown over that period of time from a one level building to this nice well-equipped facility we have today," said Wayne Meriwether, the CEO of Twin Lakes.

Those with Twin Lakes have witnessed a lot of changes in the world of health care. The latest is the Affordable Care Act.

Insurance for enrollees doesn't kick-in until January 1, 2014, but the Meriwether and the staff of the hospital are already preparing.

"First of all, we think initially we'll see our volume increase. We think with people having more access to health care with insurance they'll come to our emergency room some more and also on the in-patient side, but I think we'll see that level off over a period of time," said Meriwether.

With more Kentuckians having insurance and access to primary care physicians, Meriwether thinks that over a period of time the preventative care will increase a person's health status, which would hopefully decrease their need to go to a hospital, which would eventually decrease health care costs.

"Anytime you have access to preventative care that should be the result and that's what we hope in the future, we'll be reimbursed after providing high quality care and keeping people out of the hospital, not bringing people to the hospital," said Meriwether.

There are some fears about the unknown factors of health care reform.

"We fear people won't sign up, for whatever reason, maybe they're young and don't think they need insurance, they're healthy and they don't think they need it or they can't afford it, whatever the case may be. Two, people will sign up, but they will opt for one of the less expensive plans, bronze or silver. Along with those plans comes higher co-pays and deductibles that they may not be able to pay when they need the care. Our third fear is that employers will move their employees toward the exchanges and what that means is they'll have coverage, but it won't be good coverage that we counted on before. It'll be the type of coverage, like I said, that doesn't cover our costs," said Meriwether.

The hospital has already experienced a reduction in reimbursements. The sequester earlier this year reduced them by 2%, so those at Twin Lakes have adopted a lean management style and the staff works in the most efficient way.

"It's very difficult in this day and time to add additional staffing so I think we're going to have to reinvent health care to survive and that means a change in processes," said Meriwether.

As the health care industry evolves, those with Twin Lakes want to provide quality care at a reasonable cost.

"Our mission is to relieve pain and suffering and improve the health status of our community and it's a pretty simple, but noble mission and that's what we strive to do everyday and we've got a great, dedicated staff that's working toward that mission as well," said Meriwether.

Meriwether also says he thinks in order for smaller hospitals to survive, they'll need to work closer together, possibly sharing physicians or services to help share costs.

For more information about Twin Lakes Regional Medical Center and kynect click the links below.


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