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03-24-05 Mercer Health to raise patient fees

By Timothy Cox

  COLDWATER -- The cost of health care services at Mercer Health offices, including Community Hospital in Coldwater, will rise by an average of 4.6 percent beginning April 1.

  Board members approved the fee increases during talks on the annual budget at Wednesday's regular monthly meeting. Mercer Health's fiscal year begins April 1.
  The increase is modest based on current health care standards, CEO T.J. Padden said. The Consumer Price Index for hospitals nationwide is about 5.2 percent, he said.
  The increase will not be an across the board bump for all services. Instead, various pricing adjustments were made to achieve an overall increase of 4.6 percent, Padden said. Because of discount agreements with private insurers, Medicare and Medicaid, not all increases lead to more money in the hospital's coffers.
  "For every dollar we raise the price, we only see about 35 cents of that in real money," Padden said.  More than 50 percent of the hospital's business involves Medicare or Medicaid patients. Those government insurance programs cap the costs of services, no matter what hospitals usually charge.
  Board members approved the overall budget that shows net revenue for the next year of $34.5 million and an annual profit of $745,000. The budget was based on conservative estimates, Padden said.
  Officials projected a 2 percent increase in business volume when making the budget while in reality, hospital utilization has been increasing at a much faster clip.
  The profit projection also appears conservative. Through February, the hospital showed a profit of $1.5 million, with only this month's profit or loss to be factored in before year-end numbers are available.


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