Sen. Gardner meets with Pioneers CEO to discuss future of rural healthcare

MEEKER I In an E-Newsletter
to “Friends” last week, Colorado
U.S. Senator Cory Gardner (RYuma)
reported that he’d been in
northwest Colorado during his
Fourth of July in-state work week
and had visited with officials at
Dinosaur National Monument to discuss
U.S. national park policies and
met with executives and doctors at
Pioneers Medical Center in Meeker
to discuss challenges rural hospitals
are facing under the Affordable Care
Act, aka Obamacare. PMC CEO Ken
Harman confirmed this news and
told the Herald Times that based on
their discussion he feels Gardner
cares deeply about rural health care
in the state.
According to Chartis Center for
Rural Health—a private Chicago
firm dedicated to improving the
delivery of care across rural
America—80 rural hospitals in the
U.S. have closed since 2010 with
another 673 in danger of closing.
Cuts to Medicaid as proposed in legislation
to replace Obamacare,
Chartis says, could push many of
these facilities over the edge. A
recent Chartis report predicts that 20
percent of rural Colorado hospitals
are at risk of closing under the proposed
cuts while repeal of
Obamacare would be even more
drastic.
In their generic statements,
Chartis writes, “The rural health
safety net is under pressure. Rural
communities face socioeconomic
disadvantages and greater health disparities…
and many struggle with
negative operating margins, uncertainty,
and the unintended consequences
of various polices.”
PMC ‘s Harman agrees that PMC
is in that cohort of rural hospitals that
are vulnerable to these factors, but
argues that due to PMC’s aggressive
broadening of revenue streams and
getting ahead of the curve in having
an up-to-date facility, PMC is not
nearly as likely to be as seriously
harmed by federal changes. The
PMC board, Harman points out, has
continually pushed to reduce
dependence on county property taxes
which, nevertheless, allow the organization
to have a net operating loss.
In 2010, property tax revenues comprised
60 percent of the PMC budget.
Now it’s only 20 percent.
Four days ago, Colorado
Governor John Hickenlooper posted
on Facebook that the proposed U.S.
Senate “(un)healthcare bill is no better
than the one [that has passed the
U.S. House]. It still makes deep cuts
to care for the most vulnerable in our
state and shifts costs onto older, middle
class, and rural Coloradans.
Senators should work with
Governors on bipartisan solutions to
improve our healthcare system, making
health insurance more affordable
and stabilizing the individual market.”
Harman says he believes that the
most important approach to cutting
health care costs is preventative care
and patient participation. He reports
that 70 percent of healthcare costs
are attributable to the lifestyle choices
we make together with not availing
ourselves as individuals of the
resources and support available to
us.
Harman points to the
Accountable Care Organization
PMC has started and is ramping up
in conjunction with its Trials to
Health program of which he and the
PMC board are anxious to see
Meeker residents take greater advantage.