Ozarks Community Hospital CEO says Medicare termination is 'warning for small hospitals'

Paul Taylor, CEO of the Springfield, Mo.-based Ozarks Community Hospital health system, is fighting back against CMS' recent decision to terminate the Medicare agreement for the organization's Springfield facility.

Mr. Taylor on Thursday outlined the events leading up to CMS' decision, which has forced OCH to close its Springfield inpatient unit, surgery and emergency departments, affecting 200 employees. He also defended the hospital, saying it is a safety-net facility providing an efficient and needed service to southwest Missouri.

"There was a reason for us to be here, we were meeting a need," Mr. Taylor said during a call with media. "A need that could only be met by a small hospital."

Mr. Taylor opened the Springfield hospital in 2000. Over the last 16 years, he indicated the hospital responded to industry pressure and has done what it could to maintain inpatient services within the parameters dictated by CMS.

But he said industry pressures such as the lack of Medicaid expansion in Missouri and CMS's Recovery Audit Program have affected the hospital's organizational restructuring in recent years. 

And now, CMS has determined the Springfield hospital does not satisfy the federal definition of a hospital.

Mr. Taylor believes small hospitals are being examined closely for outpatient growth, as the healthcare industry advocates for reduced inpatient admissions and promotes primary care initiatives.

"That's the warning to the other health systems," he said.

Mr. Taylor said a CEO from a small out-of-state hospital called him in tears worried that she's next. He said she's been similarly focused on increasing primary care, as it's what she thought she was supposed to be doing.  

"That's the irony of this. We've got healthcare responding to evolutionary pressures," Mr. Taylor said.

OCH intends to appeal CMS' decision.

In the meantime, United States Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) has sent a letter to CMS, asking the agency to delay terminating Medicare payments for OCH.

Sen. McCaskill in her letter asks that CMS allow OCH to maintain its current Medicare provider agreement status until a final determination is reached.

"This will allow the community of Springfield to continue to receive the care it needs while CMS reviews OCH's case," she added.

OCH plans to suspend its Springfield hospital license as of July 29. OCH's Springfield clinic campus remains open, as well as its hospital in Gravette, Ark., and additional clinics located throughout southwest Missouri and northwest Arkansas. The Springfield clinic campus will also continue offering outpatient services including radiology, lab, cardiopulmonary, respiratory therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy.


More articles on finance and revenue cycle management:

New physicians enrolling in debt forgiveness program
7 quick facts about Medicare spending
Senator asks CMS to delay ending Medicare payments for Ozarks Community Hospital

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