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Vermont Hospitals with the biggest losses seeking large rate increase


Sunday, August 04, 2019

MONTPELIER (AP) — Some Vermont hospitals are seeking big rate increases as half a dozen expect to end this year with a deficit.

Hospitals must submit their budgets to the Green Mountain Care Board at the beginning of July for a review and rate increase hearing in August, Vermont Public Radio reported . The board reviews the budgets with an eye toward controlling costs.

Northwestern Medical Center in St. Albans expects to lose more than $4.7 million this year and Grace Cottage Hospital in Townshend projects a deficit of $1.2 million, according to reports submitted to the board.

Copley Hospital in Morrisville expects to lose more than $1.2 million, for a fourth consecutive year of losses. In late June, Springfield Medical Care Systems, a small hospital and health centers that has been struggling with finances, filed for bankruptcy protection.

“The hearings will be intense because we have the Springfield situation swirling. We have concerns about margins and financial distress elsewhere in hospitals,” said Jeff Tieman, president of the Vermont Association of Hospitals and Health Systems. The hearings are a chance for regulators to “understand the full scope of challenges and opportunities and pressures that are on hospitals,” he said.

Not all of the state’s 14 hospitals reported losses. Most of the larger hospitals said they could have rate increases below 3.5 percent. Smaller hospitals that have merged with bigger institutions also said they could keep rate increases below 3.5 percent.

But stand-alone hospitals serving poor, aging populations said they needed higher rate increases.

Copley Hospital is seeking a nearly 10% average rate increase, reporting reductions in hiring, education and capital projects this year. High drug prices and the loss of a surgeon contributed to the losses this year, hospital officials said. Northwestern Medical Center, which has lost money each of the past three years, is requesting a nearly 6 % rate increase.

“Our inpatient volume is down a bit. The birthrate is down. So we’re seeing those shifts in the inpatient,” said hospital CEO Berry Bowen. “Our emergency department volumes are down. So it’s these types of shifts that are making it challenging.”