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In the black, almost: More patients help SRMC revenue

RIO RANCHO, N.M. — The University of New Mexico hospital in Rio Rancho has found a path to fiscal stability, which includes more patients and less financial assistance, the board of directors for UNM Sandoval Regional Medical Center learned at its meeting Wednesday.

“The medical staff deserve a significant acknowledgement for the incredible work done in moving from a financial situation that was looking at millions of dollars lost per month to now projecting to be in the black,” said UNM Health System CEO Dr. Paul Roth, who serves as board chair.

The hospital continues to attract more patients each month, which has boosted revenues.

One of out every five Rio Rancho residents, almost 19,000 patients with about two visits each, has received services at UNM SRMC since it opened in July 2012, CEO Jamie Silva-Steele told the board.

The board unanimously approved a $72 million budget for fiscal 2015, which assumes surgeries will increase by a quarter, clinic visits will go up 20 percent, emergency services will rise 15 percent and the hospital will add almost 40 staff positions.

UNM SRMC will also see savings as more people enroll in Medicaid or through the health insurance exchange and the hospital offers less charity care.

UNM Care and SRMC Care, the financial assistance programs for UNM hospitals in Bernalillo and Sandoval counties, will shut down in December, Silva-Steele said after the meeting.

Those two programs scaled back their services in January. They became “a subsidy for any out-of-pocket expense that someone may have with respect to either being on the exchange or anything that is not covered through Medicaid,” she said.

The charity care funds for Sandoval County residents come from property taxes collected through a hospital mill levy, which passed in 2008. Homeowners in the county pay $141.67 for a home assessed at $100,000. Voters will decide whether to renew the tax in 2016.

The contract with the county for use of the mill levy funds says UNM SRMC “shall at all times maintain a program to provide free care, discounted care or other financial assistance for medically necessary services to persons who qualify.”

“The funds that we get from the mill levy go toward ensuring that we are taking care of uncompensated, uncovered patients within the county that come here,” Silva-Steele said, including those who are not on SRMC Care.

The number of new enrollees, per month, in the SRMC Financial Assistance program peaked at 397 in December 2013, and then fell to 237 in January and 221 in February, according to financial statements presented to the board.

Silva-Steele said UNM SRMC and Presbyterian Rust Medical Center are negotiating how they will split Sandoval County mill levy funds after July 1, with UNM SRMC likely shifting from receiving 60 percent to 40 percent of the annual allocation. The FY15 UNM SRMC budget estimates the hospital will receive $1.5 million less from the mill levy.

From July 2012 to December 2013, the UNM hospitals in Albuquerque and Rio Rancho spent a combined total of $9 million on uncompensated care for Sandoval County residents, according to quarterly reports available on the Bernalillo County Commission website.

The cost of uncompensated care, as defined by UNM hospitals, is the sum of the cost for its charity care (financial assistance programs for the indigent) and the cost of covering the uninsured (including patients who don’t or can’t pay some or all of their bill).

The Sandoval County mill levy paid UNM SRMC $20.8 million in fiscal 2013, with another $7.5 million expected in fiscal 2014, according to the budget approved by the board.

According to a report in the Albuquerque Journal on Tuesday, UNMH received a Bernalillo County mill levy of $78.5 million last year and spent $130.8 million to provide charity care for 26,500 people enrolled in UNM Care.

The Journal also reported UNMH came up $88.3 million short in covering operational expenses, but reserves kept the hospital in the black. Future profits at UNM SRMC, which the contract calls “a subsidiary of UNM,” could shore up finances at both hospitals.