Cynthia Persily, PhD, RN, FAAN
Dr. Persily is the CEO of Highland Hospital in Charleston, WV
Yesterday was Hospital Day at the West Virginia Legislature. I always appreciate the opportunity that we have in this state and in our country to be a part of the legislative process. Especially in West Virginia, we appreciate the willingness of our legislators to listen to the concerns of constituents and to work with us to craft legislative solutions to problems. Yesterday we were also honored to hear from the Governor on the important role that hospitals play in this state—by improving the health and welfare of our citizens, and investing in our communities.
I think it’s important to share some data about the impact that hospitals have on our state. These data were released yesterday by the West Virginia Hospital Association in a report called West Virginia Hospitals: The Heart of a Healthier West Virginia. In 2014, hospitals provided 1.3 billion dollars in community benefits—including $ 55 million of charity care, $182 million in uncompensated care, and $127 million in bad debt services. To help fund the Medicaid program, West Virginia hospitals, nursing facilities and other health care organizations pay $198 million per year in provider tax. Hospitals alone pay about $126 million a year of those provider taxes. In fact, the health care provider tax funds about one fourth of the state’s Medicaid budget! In addition to paying for a portion of the Medicaid program, hospitals also shoulder a financial burden because of limited reimbursement from government programs, resulting in payments below the cost of services. In fact, Medicare and Medicaid underpayments account for approximately $878 million in program shortfalls.
With all of these challenges, hospitals continue to be economic engines for their communities. More than 46,000 people are employed in West Virginia hospitals. It’s hard to find a county where hospitals are not one of the top, if not the top, employer. With all of the ancillary contracted services and purchasing that hospitals generate, West Virginia hospitals contribute approximate 9.3 billion dollars to the West Virginia economy.
But hospital care is really about patients, right? Hospitals in West Virginia provide inpatient care for 275,000 patients each year; and care for 4.8 million patients as outpatients. Over a million patients each year are cared for in hospital emergency rooms. Each and every one of us has been touched in some way in our lives by a hospital. At Highland, we are proud to be a part of a system that is so important to our state’s health and wellbeing, and proud to be an important part of the system that invests in our communities.