Phoebe won't raise healthcare prices - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Phoebe won't raise healthcare prices

August 25, 2005

Albany-- Phoebe Putney Hospital announces it won't raise medical rates this year, because the money made last year will help expand the hospital and improve health care.

It's a year in which the hospital has spent months fighting several lawsuits claiming it overcharged uninsured patients. Thursday, hospital officials approved a 2006 budget that includes millions of dollars to cover the cost of treating the poorest of its patients.

South Georgia's largest and busiest hospital, Phoebe Putney, treats thousands of patients each year. Hospital leaders say no one will be turned away, even if they can't pay.

Phoebe expects to charge more than $883 million to patients next year, but more than half of those charges won't ever get paid.

CEO Joel Wernick said, "Phoebe Putney does not about collect about 55 cents out of every dollar, that's the simple way to understand that. Everybody is charged the same amount, but not everybody pays the same amounts because of examples like Medicare and Medicade programs."

Hospitals continue to face reimbursement cutbacks, and Phoebe expects to get about $10 million less in Medicare reimbursements in the coming year. But Wernick says the high volume of patients will offset the need to raise prices to cover expenses. "Phoebe Putney experienced another record year in volume, in general patient care, out-patient activities and in our operating room."

The hospital also plans to use $45 million to upgrade technologies needed to diagnosis and treat illnesses, to renovate and add patient rooms, and to build more community health care centers.

"We're constantly reinvesting, and we think that's part of our success. It's very good health care, very high-tech. And it's ready and available right here close to home," Wernick said.

Phoebe vows to spend about $48 million for indigent and charity health care and hundreds of thousands of dollars on community programs in the upcoming year.

Wernick said today the not-for-profit hospital has about $200 million in reserve and surplus, but he says that money helps the hospital keep good credit.

This year, hospital executives have been criticized for taking lavish business trips and keeping money in off shore accounts.

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