Reimbursement inequities, rising costs and an increased amount of uncompensated care have led officials with the Fargo, N.D.-based MeritCare Health System to look for ways to trim some $15 million to $30 million from its budgetwhich includes some $800 million in annual net revenuesaid Bruce Pitts, the systems executive vice president for clinical services.
Along with considering leaving some 300 positions vacant as employees resign or retire, Pitts said the consolidation of some of the systems 18 clinics in the Fargo-Moorhead area is being considered. But, before it consolidates, MeritCare will grow some more as two specialized clinicsfor dialysis and a sleep laboratoryare set to open soon.
The system operates more than 30 clinics in North Dakota and Minnesota, Pitts said, with some having as many as 60 physicians while some only have one.
Other cutbacks include the delaying of regularly scheduled renovations and facelifts. But Pitts said scheduled salary raises will not be postponed. We need to retain our best employees, and we wont do that if we dont reward them as they deserve, he said.
Pitts said MeritCare is not hurting for volume and it is handling its share of patients, but Medicare reimbursement issues are having a negative impact. He said North Dakota hospitals are only reimbursed 80% of the national average and that, for a typical pneumonia patient, a North Dakota facility will receive maybe half of what an institution in New York or Florida is paid. Yet our costs are essentially the same, he said.
Also, Pitts said that, last year, MeritCare performed some $2.5 million in charity care, as well as $24 million worth of health services that it no longer expects to be paid for.
Pitts said he recognizes MeritCares situation is not unique. What were experiencing is happening all over the place, he said. -- by Andis Robeznieks
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