Tulsa Hospitals Watching Health Care Debate

Wednesday, August 26th 2009, 6:01 pm
By: News On 6

By Dan Bewley and Scott Thompson, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- Tulsa area hospitals are keeping a close eye on the new developments in the health care debate.  Most are concerned about what changes might be made to Medicare and Medicaid.

Managers at St. John Medical Center and St. Francis Health System say their main worry is what could happen to Medicare.

More than 60,000 people are treated each year at the St. John Medical Center's emergency room.  Many of those do not have health insurance and each year the hospital loses money to treat the uninsured

"We treat a tremendous amount of uninsured folks here who have no insurance or no ability to pay," said Richard Boone with the St. John Medical Center Foundation.

Richard Boone is president of the St. John Medical Center Foundation.  For the last several weeks, he's been watching the debate on healthcare reform.

"No one really knows what the eventual plan will look like," said Richard Boone with the St. John Medical Center Foundation.

Boone agrees that some kind of reform is needed in the country, but he's worried about two potential developments.  One has to do with possible changes in Medicare or Medicaid.      

Republicans says the current House plan would cut $500 billion from those two programs.  Half of St. John's business is with Medicare and Medicaid patients.

The other worry is the possibility of a government plan that would fund abortions.  St. John is a Catholic hospital and does not do abortions or any other sterilization procedure.

Boone says the hospital would have no choice but to draw the line.        

 "I'm saying we would object to that and refuse to comply," said Richard Boone with the St. John Medical Center Foundation.

Officials at St. Francis are also watching the developments closely.  They tell The News On 6 there are three major concerns, including public insurance based on Medicare rates, meaning hospitals wouldn't be able to recover any lost money.        

They're also worried about a controversial re-admission policy that wouldn't pay the hospital if someone is re-admitted within thirty days of the original treatment.

Then, there's so-called Accountable Care Organizations that are being proposed to help manage care.  Officials says it's a mystery what an ACO would do, but they believe it's similar to an HMO.

Richard Boone says of the options being presented, St. John supports universal health coverage.  He says that plan has less government involvement than the single-payer system.  

08/25/2009  Related Story: Health Care Reform And Oklahoma's Congressional Delegation