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GMH has oversight hearing

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 by Sabrina Salas Matanane

Guam - Guam Memorial Hospital administrator Joseph Verga and chief financial officer Alan Ulrich appeared before lawmakers for an oversight hearing this afternoon. Today's  oversight hearing with the Guam Memorial Hospital authority was called by Healthcare Committee chair Senator Dennis Rodriguez, Jr. in light of a report released by the Office of Public Accountability into the hospital's finances in Fiscal Year 2013.

The audit report emphasized "GMH has incurred recurring losses and negative cash flows from operations that raise substantial doubt about its ability to continue as a going concern."

The audit of the hospital's FY13 finances  described expenditures steadily increasing in the last 5 years while revenues declined. Auditors also noted how operating losses since 2009 jumped from $6 million to $34 million in FY13.  Public Auditor Dores Flores Brooks also talked about the hospital's $235 million patient receivables of which she said $210 million was determined to be collectible.

"I remember when I first saw this I said you're flatlining you're flatlining its amazing your surviving there problem is that every 2 weeks they're looking for enough money to make payroll," she said.

Hospital administrator Joseph Verga described to lawmakers unexpected and unfunded circumstances that have contributed to the hospital's financial quandry, but he also outlined the hard work he and his team have been working on to improve finances. Verga citing an example of progress made on reconstructing information that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid claim has been missing to complete its assessment of whether it will recognize the hospital's request to the US Department of Health and Human Services for an increase of Medicare reimbursement rates.  As we've reported for more than a decade, GMH has been requesting exceptions to the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act rate based on actual costs of service. GMH has been paying significantly more to treat Medicare patients losing millions each year due to low reimbursement rates.

"We have put together an application I just recently signed the application and the application is now on the desk of CMS in Washington I have personally spoken to secretary of HHS who said she was impressed by what  we have put together and has invited me to Washington to meet with her and she said personally that she was intent on helping us I thought this was such a positive step forward I am very very optimistic that we are going to get this rebate," he said.

As for other initiatives to resuscitate its flatlining finances GMH hopes that by the end of August they will sign off on a  contract with a collections agency. Once that's finalized self pay patients will have on month to clear their debt with GMH. The hospital is also looking to outsource its billing, coding,  and collections for all commercial and government accounts.  GMH is also in negotiations and hoping to finalize a contract with insurance companies by August 1st proposing an increase. Verga also continued his push to implement a Customs user fee, which Senator Aline Yamashita encouraged him to explore and engage in discussions with the local agency. Verga estimates this will result in $20 million in new revenue annually to GMH.

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