Phoebe's data shows it charges less - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Phoebe's data shows it charges less

Albany-- Phoebe Putney Hospital has paid for a study that the hospital says proves it charges less for health care than most hospitals. A hospital financial analyst, hired by Phoebe, had glowing praise for its rates and business practices.

Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital hired Dr. William Cleverley to analyze what Phoebe charges, and he says, "Phoebe Putney's prices are very very, reasonable."

The study found that Phoebe's average inpatient charge per day in 2003 was $1,500 less than other Georgia hospitals, and $700 less than the national average. Their outpatient visit charges also are less than other Georgia hospitals average, twelve dollars higher than the national average. On the overall charge index, Phoebe charged less.

Dr. Cleverley said "They are a very well-managed, low cost hospital. They provide large amounts of care to low income patients." The study shows that Phoebe serves a much higher volume of Medicare, Medicaid, and indigent patients, and lost $23 million last year treating those who could not pay.

Dr. Cleverley said, "The level care provided to Medicaid and charity patients at this facility probably places them in the top five percent, maybe even more of all hospitals in the United States."

Phoebe has been sued for charging patients without insurance more than insured, and for tough collection tactics. Phoebe C.E.O. Joel Wernick admits that criticism was one reason they wanted the assessment. "Giving us comparisons, and suggestions on how best to give ourselves a report card to ourselves on how we are doing."

Phoebe reports they have $258 million in cash reserves now, but the hospital analyst says that is in line with other non-profits. "Phoebe is about where it needs to be. It may be even light if you want to factor in dollars for contingency," Dr. Cleverley said.

Phoebe Putney is the largest health care provider in Southwest Georgia, and Wernick says having the most patients is how they keep their prices down. "High volume creates a way to spread cost over a lot of people. So being a high volume, strategic high growth organization is essential."

Dr. Cleverley said the biggest financial worry for Phoebe Putney is possible cuts in Medicaid and Medicare from state and national budgets, because of their high volume of patients. Phoebe Putney has hired Dr. Cleverley to study their finances twice before, the most recent analysis coming eight years ago. Phoebe would not say what they paid for the study.

posted by dave.miller@walb.com

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