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Looming Medicare, Medicaid changes could dramatically affect health care in Pa., officials say

November 22, 2011|By JENNIFER FITCH | waynesboro@herald-mail.com
  • Summit Health President and Chief Executive Officer Norman B. Epstein, left, responds to reporters' questions Tuesday after delivering his annual report. At right is Patrick O'Donnell, Summit Health's senior vice president, chief financial officer and chief operating officer.
By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer

WAYNESBORO, Pa. — Looming changes to Medicare and Medicaid could have dramatic effects on health care in Franklin County, Pa., hospital officials said Tuesday.

Summit Health President and Chief Executive Officer Norman B. Epstein hosted the health system’s annual meetings at Chambersburg, Pa., and Waynesboro hospitals. He used much of his presentation to address Medicare, Medicaid and the national deficit.

“This is a real problem, and it’s not going to get better,” Epstein said.

Waynesboro Hospital is designated as a Medicare-dependent rural hospital, according to Patrick O’Donnell, Summit Health’s senior vice president, chief financial officer and chief operating officer.

Sixty percent of the health system’s patients use Medicare, O’Donnell said.

When Congress’ “supercommittee” for deficit reduction fails to meet Wednesday’s deadline, there could be automatic cuts to Medicare. Epstein said those anticipated 2 percent cuts are at least preferable to deeper ones.

“Most hospitals in rural America, including Waynesboro, would disappear or have dramatic cuts,” he said of more significant Medicare cuts.

Epstein mentioned GM, Kodak and Blockbuster.

“Those companies failed to make the right decisions, and their industry changed very quickly and dramatically,” he said.

Despite worries about Medicare and Medicaid, Summit Health’s system is faring well with recruiting new physicians and providing services, O’Donnell said.

Waynesboro Hospital receives exceptionally high marks in customer satisfaction surveys, Epstein said.

Summit Health reported $409.2 million in revenue and $373.9 million in expenses in its 2011 annual report. The nonprofit organization added 13 physicians, six physician assistants, six nurse practitioners and six certified registered nurse anesthetists in the past year.

Summit Health, with 2,905 employees, is one of Franklin County’s largest employers.

A new addition to Chambersburg Hospital is expected to be completed by December 2012. It will have 171 private patient rooms and a new cardiac-catheterization suite.

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